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12.9: Count-Noncount (Collective) Nouns

  • Page ID
    21414
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    Nouns represent persons, places, things, and ideas. Nouns that name something in general, such as a bridge, are common nouns. Nouns that name specific things with titles, such as The Golden Gate Bridge, are called proper nouns. Proper nouns are always capitalized whereas common nouns follow regular capitalization rules (see "Capitalization"). Proper nouns are always one specific thing, so they are neither countable or noncount (collective). Common nouns, however, can either be countable (they can be pluralized, such as bridge) or noncountable (also known as collective) Noncount nouns are those that are always referred to as a whole, or collectively, such as equipment. Equipment could refer to one piece of equipment or many pieces of equipment, but it's just referred to as equipment and is never pluralized (--s or --es is never added to the end to indicate more than one).

    Incorrect: five moneys, two furnitures, three sugars

    Correct: some money, two pieces of furniture, two teaspoons of sugar

    Many other grammatical rules and structures depend on whether a noun is singular, plural, or noncount (collective), so it’s important to have a good working understanding of this topic.

    Count Nouns

    A count noun refers to people, places, and things that are separate units. You make count nouns plural by adding -s or --es to the end of the word. Count nouns almost always take an article before them (or before the adjective that precedes the noun). See "Articles" on page 12.10. Only if you are writing or talking about something in general does a count noun not take an article before it.

    Examples:

    • I needed to purchase the books for my biology class before the first day.
    • A choice was given to me: Pass the last essay or retake the class next semester.
    • College is important to consider when thinking about one's future.

    Noncount Nouns

    A noncount noun identifies a whole object that cannot separate and count individually. Noncount nouns may refer to concrete objects or abstract things or ideas. A concrete noun identifies an object you can see, taste, touch, or count. An abstract noun identifies an idea or concept that you cannot see, touch, or count. There are some exceptions, but most abstract nouns cannot be made plural, so they are noncount nouns. Examples of abstract nouns include anger, education, melancholy, research, softness, violence, and conduct.

    Types of Noncount Nouns

    The following table categorizes noncount nouns by type.

    Type of Noncount Noun Examples Sentences
    Foods sugar, salt, lettuce, pepper, rice, coffee, tea Add more sugar to my coffee please.
    Solids concrete, chocolate, silver, soap, equipment The ice cream was covered in warm chocolate.
    Abstract Nouns peace, warmth, hospitality, love, information, violence, tranquility The tranquility of the beach was relaxing.

    Tip

    Many abstract concepts end in “ness,” “tion,” “ance,” or “ence.”

    Some other common noncount nouns you will likely encounter in college or business:

    analysis business change composition consumption cost demand dependence electricity energy enough industry inflation information

    investment jargon likelihood management mitigation money oil output potential probability production property prosperity research

    risk time uncertainty reliance scope sequence supply tradework

    Note

    Sometimes nouns can be used as adjectives to describe another noun (example: investment products – “investment” describes the type of products). When a noun is acting as an adjective, never put an “s” on the end of it.

    Exercise 1

    On a separate sheet of paper, identify whether the italicized noun in the sentence is a count or noncount noun by writing C or NC above the noun.

    1. The amount of traffic on the way home was terrible.
    2. Forgiveness is an important part of growing up.
    3. I made caramel sauce for the organic apples I bought.
    4. I prefer film cameras instead of digital ones.
    5. My favorite subject is history.
    6. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

    Exercise 2

    On a separate piece of paper, edit the following paragraph for any mistakes with count and noncount noun usage.

    Research can be challenging. It takes a long times. First you have to create brainstorm list or mind maps to figure out what you know about the topic and how it relates to other issue. I chose the topic of violent and how it affects our life. After you think of a central question, you then have to read all the researches about the various topics. Then you have decide what is important in what you read and decide what you have to say about that subtopic. Then you have to organize everythings, decide about what you will quote and what paraphrase you will use. Finally, all of the citations has to be correct.

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    This page was most recently updated on June 8, 2020.


    12.9: Count-Noncount (Collective) Nouns is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto.