display | more...

A noun referring to something which is considered to be indeterminate and unquantifiable in number, handled grammatically using singular forms regardless of the quantity; plural forms may exist but involve a change in semantic value above and beyond mere plurality. Contrast count noun. Synonyms: uncountable noun, non-count noun.

Most European languages treat substances as mass nouns; here plural forms exist but refer only to different types (a spoonful of sugar/glucose and sucrose are sugars), discrete objects (rocks) versus a literal mass (rock), or more complex distinctions (water versus waters). English makes more use of this form than, notably, the Romance languages, however: notionally countable items like hair are also treated as uncountable (contrast FR les cheveux, IT i capelli for instance; note that unlike, say, "sand" the word can also refer to a discrete individual piece) as well as a range of more abstract concepts like "information" (cf FR les informations); in this context the much-disputed handling of "data" as an inflectionally singular noun makes reasonable sense - this can be seen as the full adoption of a Latin-rooted lexeme into a language with predominantly Germanic structures, particularly if "data" is considered to refer to a broader range of meanings than mere numbers (a reductionistic view which may have been encouraged by the digitizing of everything; nonetheless it is hard to argue that the simple possibility of storing the words of A la recherche du temps perdu in ASCII or the recording of The Birdie Song as an MP3 means that all the data incorporated in these works is countable.

This is an issue of some significance for language learners; note also that British and American English usage differs for some items: BE treats "accommodation" (in the sense of a roof over your head) as uncountable, while Americans look for accommodations.

Sometimes referred to as uncountable nouns, these are nouns which cannot be made plural. This is just another quirky part of the English language (I'm not sure if other languages have non-count nouns.) Often, ESL folk have trouble with this particular concept, because there are no rules that can explain it.

Examples: baggage, advice, information.

As rabidcow points out, non-count nouns cannot be made plural as they are in a sense already plural. For instance mud, as in "some mud, even more mud", similarly sand, faeces, dirt, water, rice, snot, porn, love or weather.

Yes, in the English language, baggage is a diffuse heap of stuff, not a discreet item. Don't blame me, I didn't do it.

words that are their own plurals are not non-count nouns. You can correctly say "one elk, many elk" or "one fish, many fish". The word's ending may not have changed, but the concept can be expressed in singular or plural. On the other hand, "One advice, many advice" is not correct English at all. "some advice, even more advice" or the singular form "a piece of advice" are correct.

Re the idea that "data" is plural, the word data was originally the plural of datum, but is often used these days as a non-count noun. We've got so much of it these days.

Plurals are sometimes used to refer to different kinds of the substance. e.g.: Where the fresh water from the river meets the salt water of the sea, there is a confluence of the waters.

Mostly, non-count nouns cannot be made singular, often the singular is faked by adding "a piece of"

Generally they refer to something that is a substance or substance-like.
love, syrup, air, water
There is no descrete item.

As for baggage... The English language is nuts.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.