Mass Nouns

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What Are Mass Nouns? (with Examples)

A mass noun (or non-countable noun or noncount noun as it's also known) is a noun without a plural form.

A mass noun is one that cannot be counted. For example:

mass nouns examples

Examples of Mass Nouns

Here are some examples of mass nouns:
Mass NounAttempt At Making It Plural
petrolfour petrols
furniturefour furnitures
lumberfour lumbers
goldfour golds

Mass nouns are singular.

More Examples of Mass Nouns

Non-countable nouns usually fall into one of the following categories:
Concept gallantry, morality, information, aptitude, patience
Activity homework, singing, reading, fishing
Food bread, butter, cheese, fish, milk
Gas air, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, smoke
Liquid beer, coffee, petrol, water, wine
Material cloth, concrete, lumber, wood, metal
Item Category clothing, furniture, luggage, money
Natural Phenomenon gravity, heat, humidity, rain, snow, sunshine, thunder
Particles flour, grit, salt, sugar

Mass Nouns Contrast with Countable Nouns

Mass nouns contrast with countable nouns, which can be pluralized. Here are some examples of countable nouns:
  • ant, beaver, cat, dodo, earwig, fence, gannet, horse, inkwell
  • (Note that these all have plural forms, e.g., "ants," "beavers," "cats.")

Read more about the term "plural" and forming plurals.

Some Nouns Can Be Countable or Non-countable

As a general rule, mass nouns cannot be pluralized. However, some can be pluralized when talking about categories of that noun (e.g., varieties or measures of the noun). This is most common with mass nouns in the food and liquid categories. For example:
  • Israel is famous for its baby cheeses.
  • (Varieties of cheese)
  • Chile is well known for its many fine wines.
  • (Varieties of wine)
  • Can I have four coffees?
  • (Measures of coffee)

Why Should I Care about Mass Nouns?

Here are two noteworthy points related to mass nouns.

(Point 1) Making Mass Nouns Plural

Here are two methods to pluralize a concept expressed by a mass noun:

Method 1: Precede it with a [countable noun] + "of."

For example:
  • three loaves of bread
  • ("Loaves" is the countable noun.)
  • six pieces of gold
  • ("Pieces" is the countable noun.)
Method 2: Make the mass noun an "adjective" to a countable noun.

For example:
  • three bread loaves
  • six gold pieces

(Issue 2) Using the Right Quantifier with a Mass Noun

Use "amount of" with a mass noun. The terms "quantity of" and "number of" are used with countable nouns. For example:
  • Amount of patience
  • Quantity of lumber
Read more about using "amount of," "quantity of," and "number of."

Read more about countable nouns.
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See Also

Take a test on mass nouns Read more about amount of, quantity of, and number of What are nouns? What are the different types of nouns What are abstract nouns? What are collective nouns? What are compound nouns?