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9.6: Nouns and Article Use

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    Nouns are words that name things, places, people, and ideas. Right now, you may be surrounded by desks, computers, and notebooks. These are called count nouns because you can count the exact number of desks, computers, and notebooks—three desks, one computer, and six notebooks, for example.

    On the other hand, you may be carrying a small amount of money in your wallet and sitting on a piece of furniture. These are called non-count nouns. Although you can count the pieces of furniture or the amount of money, you cannot add a number in front of money or furniture, and you cannot simply add -s to the end of a non-count noun. Instead, you must use other words and phrases to indicate the quantity of money and furniture.

    Incorrect: five moneys, two furnitures

    Correct: some money, two pieces of furniture

    Count and Non-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.

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    chair -- Make sure to push the chairs against the wall before you leave.

    A non-count noun identifies a whole object that cannot be separated from other identical objects and counted individually. Non-count nouns may refer to concrete objects or abstract objects. A concrete noun identifies an object you can see, taste, touch, or count. An abstract noun identifies an object that you cannot see, touch, or count. There are some exceptions, but most abstract nouns cannot be made plural, so they are non-count nouns. Examples of abstract nouns include anger, education, melancholy, softness, violence, and conduct.

    Type of Non-count Nouns Examples Sample Sentence
    Food sugar, salt, pepper, lettuce, rice Add more sugar to my coffee, please.
    Solids concrete, chocolate, silver, soap The ice cream was covered in creamy chocolate.
    Abstract Nouns peace, warmth, hospitality, information I need more information about the insurance policy.
    Exercise 21

    Identify whether the italicized noun in the sentence is a count or non-count 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.

    Definite and Indefinite Articles

    The word the is a definite article. It refers to one or more specific things. For example, the woman refers to not any woman but a particular woman. The definite article the is used before singular and plural count nouns.

    The words a and an are indefinite articles. They refer to one nonspecific thing. For example, a woman refers to any woman, not a specific, particular woman. The indefinite article a or an is used before a singular count noun.

    • Definite Articles (The) and Indefinite Articles (A/An) with Count Nouns
      • I saw the concert. (singular, refers to a specific concert)
        • I saw the concerts. (plural, refers to more than one specific concert)
        • I saw the U2 concert last night. (singular, refers to a specific concert)
        • I saw a concert. (singular, refers to any nonspecific concert)

    Two Article Rules

    The following rules will help to determine when and what kind of article needs to be used.

    Rule 1: A singular count noun needs an article or a determiner. Choose a or an if the noun is indefinite. Choose the if the noun is definite

    Rule 2: A plural or non-count noun does not need an article unless it is definite.

    Exercise 22

    Write the correct article in the blank for each of the following sentences. Write OK if the sentence is correct.

    1. (A/An/The) camel can live for days without water. ________
    2. I enjoyed (a/an/the) pastries at the Bar Mitzvah. ________
    3. (A/An/The) politician spoke of many important issues. ________
    4. I really enjoyed (a/an/the) actor’s performance in the play. ________
    5. (A/An/The) goal I have is to run a marathon this year. ________
    Exercise 23

    Correct the misused or missing articles and rewrite the paragraph.

    Stars are large balls of spinning hot gas like our sun. The stars look tiny because they are far away. Many of them are much larger than sun. Did you know that a Milky Way galaxy has between two hundred billion and four hundred billion stars in it? Scientists estimate that there may be as many as five hundred billion galaxies in an entire universe! Just like a human being, the star has a life cycle from birth to death, but its lifespan is billions of years long. The star is born in a cloud of cosmic gas and dust called a nebula. Our sun was born in the nebula nearly five billion years ago. Photographs of the star-forming nebulas are astonishing.

    key takeaways
    • You can make count nouns plural by adding –s or –es.
    • Count nouns are individual people, places, or things that can be counted, such as politicians, deserts, or candles.
    • Non-count nouns refer to whole things that cannot be made plural, such as salt, peace, or happiness.
    • The is a definite article and is used to refer to a specific person, place, or thing, such as the Queen of England.
    • A and an are indefinite articles, and they refer to nonspecific people, places, or things, such as an apple or a bicycle.

    This page titled 9.6: Nouns and Article Use is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kathryn Crowther, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, and Kirk Swenson (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.