Mass Nouns

What Are Mass Nouns?

A mass noun (or non-countable noun or noncount noun as it's also known) is a noun without a plural form. Put another way, a mass noun is one that cannot be counted.
Mass NounAttempt At Making It Plural
petrolfour petrols wrong cross
furniturefour furnitures wrong cross
lumberfour lumbers wrong cross
goldfour golds wrong cross
Mass nouns are singular.

Table of Contents

  • Common Categories of Mass Nouns
  • Mass Nouns vs Countable Nouns
  • Some Nouns Can Be Countable or Non-countable
  • Why Mass Nouns Are Important
  • Test Time!
mass nouns examples

Common Categories of Mass Nouns

Non-countable nouns usually fall into one of the following categories:
Conceptgallantry, morality, information, aptitude, patience
Activityhomework, singing, reading, fishing
Foodbread, butter, cheese, fish, milk
Gasair, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, smoke
Liquidbeer, coffee, petrol, water, wine
Materialcloth, concrete, lumber, wood, metal
Item Categoryclothing, furniture, luggage, money
Natural Phenomenongravity, heat, humidity, rain, snow, sunshine, thunder
Particlesflour, grit, salt, sugar

Mass Nouns vs 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".

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 Mass Nouns Are Important

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 correct tick
  • Quantity of lumber wrong cross
Read more about using "amount of," "quantity of," and "number of." Read more about countable nouns.

Key Point

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.