The Baire category theorem implies that a nonempty complete metric space without isolated points must be uncountable. In many situations I have encountered, the "natural examples" of complete metric spaces without isolated points (of a certain type, or possibly with some additional structure) in fact have at least continuum cardinality. This is not so surprising, since if Cantor's continuum hypothesis holds, then uncountable is equivalent to at least continuum cardinality.

However, if we do not wish to assume CH -- and, ever since Godel and Cohen proved that (G)CH is independent of ZFC set theory, this seems to be the prevalent attitude -- what can be said about the existence of such spaces of uncountable cardinality less than the continuum?

I asked this question to someone before, and I seem to remember that it is known that one **cannot** unconditionally improve the conclusion of this application of Baire category to say "continuum cardinality". But could someone say a little bit about how this goes? Preferably in words that are comprehensible to a non-set theorist like myself?

**Addendum**: Thanks to Sergei Ivanov for a quick and convincing answer: evidently I was making things much more complicated than I needed to. Just to get myself reoriented properly, I would like to try to remember where the set-theoretic subtleties come in. Suppose I ask about the conclusion of BCT itself, rather than this particular corollary: not assuming CH, what can we say about the minimal cardinality of a covering family of nowhere dense subsets in a complete metric space?

**Second Addendum**: I was even more turned around than I had realized: I was (i) worrying needlessly about uncountable cardinals smaller than the continuum and (ii) not worrying enough about cardinals greater than the continuum! In particular, I was under the misimpression that for any cardinal $\kappa \geq 2^{\aleph_0}$, $\kappa^{\aleph_0} = \kappa$. This led me to incorrectly guess the strong form a classical theorem of F.K. Schmidt. I think I have it right now: if you are interested, see pp. 13-16 of

`$2^{\aleph_0}$`

(instead of countably many) closed nowhere dense sets cannot cover the whole space? – François G. Dorais♦ Apr 28 '10 at 15:08