Count and noncount nouns

Let’s take a closer look at the noun hand. Notice that you can say the following:

the hand                   a hand                   hands

 Here are some other nouns which demonstrate the same pattern:

the store                  a store                    stores

the idea                    an idea                   ideas

the tissue                 a tissue                  tissues

 Let’s compare hand to the noun furniture. As with hand, we can say the furniture. But we can’t say  *a furniture or  *furnitures. Here are some other nouns which demonstrate the same pattern as furniture:

the dust                   *a dust                   *dusts

the energy               *an energy            *energies

the biology               *a biology              *biologies

Note : Asterisk mark (*) indicate a wrong phrase/word.

Thus, there are some nouns that can be counted, and so we can use a or an with them and can also make them plural. These nouns are called, appropriately, count nouns. Hand  is a count noun. So are store, idea, and tissue. There are other nouns that typically are not counted, and so we do not use a or an with them and do not typically make them plural. These nouns are called, also appropriately, noncount nouns. (Another name for a noncount noun is a mass noun.) Furniture is a noncount noun. So are dust, energy, and biology.

You may well be saying to yourself,‘‘Wait a minute. I can count furniture. I can say something like: three couches and three chairs make six pieces of furniture. ’’And of course, you’d be right. But notice that in this sentence, the words couch and chair can be made plural, but not the word furniture. And the word piece can be made plural, but, again, not the word furniture.

 Tip : If you can pluralize a noun in a sentence, it is functioning as a count noun.

Note that a noun is considered to be a count noun if it can be made plural, even if it’s not plural in a particular sentence. Thus, in the sentence I ate a cookie, cookie  is a count noun because one could pluralize it to cookies without changing its basic meaning.

[Glossary: Notice = perhatikan; Demonstrate = mendemonstrasikan; Furniture = perabotan/furnitur; Compare =  membandingkan; Thus = dengan demikian; Appropriately = secara tepat; Typically = secara khas/tipikal; Couch(es) = sofa;  Chair(s) = kursi; Considered = dianggap; Pluralize = menjamakkan; Meaning = makna/arti ]

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Exercise 5.1

For each underlined noun in the sentences below, indicate if it is count (C) or noncount (NC). Use the plural test to help you.

Sample: Her hairstyle (C) clearly revealed her face.

1. The lights ( ) of the city ( ) twinkled.

2. I love eating rice ( ).

3. His anger ( ) was barely under control.

4. Her job ( ) was rather demanding.

5. Many types of information ( ) are available at the library ( ).

6. The police ( ) will be here in a moment.

7. He leaned on the handle ( ) and cursed.

8. I was so thirsty, I needed three glasses ( ) of water ( ).

9. How much money ( ) do you make in an hour ( )?

10. By 11 P.M., the train-station ( ) was nearly empty.

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