Understanding the Difference between “An Experience” and “Experience”
My students often have trouble with the noun “experience.” This is because experience has two (main) meanings. Let me try to explain it as simply as I can.
Meaning #1 (the countable experience): “I had an interesting experience at school today.”
In this sentence, an experience is an event or incident. It is an event that you were a part of and the event made an impression on you (it’s something you will remember). These type of experiences are countable, just like events. If you had an interesting experience at school today, that means one interesting thing happened to you. For example, you kissed a girl (or boy) for the first time.
Here are some other examples of the countable form of the word experience:
- Climbing Mount Everest was an experience that I’ll never forget. (This is one event that happened in the past).
- I have had some bad experiences with taxi drivers. (The speaker has had two or three unpleasant stories about taxi drivers that she has experienced herself. Each of these stories, or events, was a bad experience.)
Meaning #2 (the uncountable experience): “I have experience with computers.”
In this sentence, experience means familiarity.You have used computers for many years, so you are familiar with them, you have knowledge of them, and you have skill using them. This ‘experience’ is the familiarity and knowledge you have of something because you have used it for a period of time. This ‘experience’ is non-countable; it is not one event that happened to you. It is something you have gained over a period of time by doing something. Just like knowledge, understanding, or familiarity, you can’t count it.
Here are some other examples of the uncountable form of the word experience:
- I have 8 years of teaching experience. (This means I have taught, in practice, for 8 years.)
- Mike has just graduated college. He doesn’t have any work experience. (He has never worked; he has no familiarity with working and no knowledge of what working is like.)
Experience: Set Expressions & Idioms
We always say:
- In my experience, Bob is a good teacher.
- Based on my experience, Bob is a good teacher.
- Speaking from experience, Bob is a good teacher.
Meanings: You have learned that Bob is a good teacher from the knowledge you have gained from studying with him personally.
Here is one useful idiom:
- Experience is the best teacher.
Meaning: We learn best by doing things and getting direct experience. For example, people learn more about surfing by going to the beach and trying to surf; this is a better than reading about surfing on the Internet.
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Do you think you understand? Try the experience quiz!
1. Sarah gave birth to a baby boy last week. It was experience.
2. The doctor who helped her at the hospital had been a doctor for 20 years. He had . Sarah was happy that he was her doctor.
3. Yesterday, there was a fire in Sarah’s apartment building. Everyone had to leave the building. It was experience.
4. Sarah’s husband, Tom, has worked as a policeman for 5 years. In his , being a policeman is a good job.
5. Last year, he saved a boy who fell into the river. That was he will never forget.
- a hard
- a lot of experience.
- a scary
- an experience
I hope that reading this has been a learning experience for you. If you still have questions, please post a comment below.
– Matthew Barton / Englishcurrent.com (Copyright)