‘In formal context’ vs. ‘in a formal context’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

“Context” can be a countable as well as an uncountable noun. When you speak about context in general, the word is usually uncountable, e.g.

The text can only be understood in context.
His words were taken out of context.

However, when you speak about several different types of context, it is used as a countable noun. In particular, this is the case when you contrast formal and informal contexts, e.g.

In French, you should use “vous” in a formal context and “tu” in an informal context.

Phrases “in formal context” and “in informal context” are not wrong per se and can be sometimes found in English literature, but the corresponding phrases with indefinite articles are much more common and therefore preferable.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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