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This line is from Wiki, from a translation for Lincoln's Gettysburg address:

Nous sommes maintenant engagés dans une grande guerre civile, épreuve qui vérifiera si cette nation...peut résister au temps.

Is it at all significant that the noun 'épreuve' is without an article? Would it be better with 'une,' like this?

Nous sommes maintenant engagés dans une grande guerre civile, une épreuve qui vérifiera si cette nation...peut résister au temps.

Merci.

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 No . I am sure I have encountered this usage before.

There is a distinction between the 2 but it is quite fine. I can't quite say what the difference is  but you should  "get" it  if you come across a few more examples.

Interesting. Then this must be one instance where one must note how French is different from English, because if I were to translate the statement back to English, using 'test' for 'épreuve,' I could **never** dream of leaving it without an article:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, a test of whether that nation ... can long endure.

I have tried to find another example and it is a bit difficult . But here is another from

http://books.google.ie/books?id=GZMoreOA00YC&pg=PA198&lpg=P...

Here is an extract (and you can find the rest from the link above)

peut ainsi se poser comme celle de 1'écrivain bilingue qui hésite entre deux formulations, attitude qui lui confere un certain détachement a 1'egard du

Hi George/Robert,

This usage is actually not uncommon. In general, when you get what what is called an appositive (or a noun in apposition), French tends to use a "bare" noun.

So what is apposition? Well, basically, it's whenever you put two nouns (or noun phrases) directly next to each other with the idea that the two are "equivalent" (or that one "defines" the other). Sometimes the article is also omitted in English, but omitting it is more common in French. So for example in this case, yo could optionally include an article in English, but it's more or less ungrammatical (or at least much less usual) to include one in French:

English: Frédéric Chopin, grand compositeur du 19e siècle...

French: Frédéric Chopin, (a/the) great 19th century composer...

Now, that said, one interesting phenomenon is that the use of the article appears to be getting slightly more common, particularly when only individual could fulfil the description in question. So here, for example, it seems that speakers would tend to include the "le":

François Hollande, le président français, ...

However, in the case you cite, I think omitting the article would be the usual option.

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