Noncount Nouns -Definition and Types

What are Noncount Nouns?

Noncount nouns cannot be counted and do not have plural forms. 

The quantity and countability of noncount nouns can be implied by using partitives (a kind of, a piece of, a bit of, etc.) before them. Some determiners (much, little, the, etc.) and demonstratives (this, that) can also be used before noncount nouns, but indefinite articles (a/an) cannot be used in front of them.

What are the Types of Noncount Nouns? 

Noncount nouns do not occur with indefinite article (a/an), never occur in the plural, and always take a singular verb. Check out the subcategories of noncounts nouns under two main types:

1. Mass nouns

Mass nouns are those noncount nouns that refer to larger units or categories. These noncount nouns do not have a plural form, and they cannot take indefinite articles such as a/an.

  • Food: cake, butter, meat, salt, sugar, cheese, pasta, cream, etc. 
  • Liquids: water, oil, coffee, tea, milk, soup, etc.
  • Materials: cement, papers, timber, gold, glass
  • Gases: air, hydrogen, oxygen, smoke, steam, nitrogen, etc.
  • Categories/Sets/Units: clothing, accommodation, luggage, food, fruit, furniture, etc.
  • Natural Phenomena: lightning, thunder, rain, darkness, scenery, sunshine, etc. 

2. Abstract nouns

Abstract nouns are noncount nouns that refer to ideas, concepts, emotions, beliefs, precepts, or intangible phenomena. 

  • Concepts: freedom, health, success, etc.
  • Academic Fields: chemistry, geology, literature, physics, economics, etc.
  • Activities: rowingfishingcamping, dancing, swimming, etc.
  • Emotions: hate, fear, jealousy, love, misery, etc. 
  • Qualities: beauty, honor, justice, wisdom, etc.

Note: Cross-over nouns have dual class membership. These nouns can be either count or noncount, depending on their meaning and context.

  • Count: They are sensitivite to bright lights, temperatures, and sudden or harsh sounds.
  • Noncount: Light travels faster than sound

References: 

  • A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (Longman Group Ltd., 1985)
  • Grammar for Teachers: A Guide to American English for Native and Non-Native Speakers by Andrea DeCapua (Springer, 2008) 

 

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