Learn English – Indefinite article after as


I read that when you classify or define people and things you use a/an:

Don't use your plate as an ashtray.

But then I found a news article which included the following sentence:

Indian teenager allegedly raped twice after cops failed to follow her after using her as 'bait'.

Shouldn't the correct sentence be "using her as a bait?"

My question is as follows:

  1. Which is grammatically correct? Using her as bait or using her as a bait?

  2. If the former is correct then why is the indefinite article not used
    after as? Isn't it defining her as a bait?

  3. If both are grammatically correct then what is the difference in meaning or usage?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Best Answer

The absence of articles at all in the sentence indicates that it's a newspaper headline, as such a practice is a common way of saving space. However, not every noun which is missing an article should actually have one.

Bait is a mass noun so it's uncountable and cannot usually take an article, in the same way as furniture doesn't.

Indian teenager used as furniture
*Indian teenager used as a furniture

As with all such nouns, different types can be enumerated and in that case, an article may be appropriate.

Wensleydale is a cheese beloved of plasticine Yorkshiremen and their dogs.

Note that the use of as is immaterial here; it's the noun itself and its properties as a mass/ non-count noun which determines whether an article is needed.

The Indian teenager should indeed have an article, because teenager is a count noun rather than a mass noun. But this has been omitted in the headline.

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