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      Ask the Editor
      Archive
      Serenity Carr, Assistant Editor
      Count and Noncount Nouns
      Tuesday September 8th 2020
      Question
      What is "count" and "noncount" in your word of the day? — Paul, Canada
      Answer

      We use the words count and noncount in our dictionary to describe two kinds of nouns: count nouns can be counted; noncount nouns cannot be counted.

       

      Count nouns are nouns that are talked about as individual things. They have singular and plural forms and can be counted. For example, the nouns 'cat,' 'book,' 'dream,' and 'delivery' can be used in the singular and plural to talk about individual things.

      • She has a cat.
      • There are nine books on the table.
      • She will tell you what your dreams mean.
      • He made 15 deliveries yesterday.

       

      Noncount nouns (also called mass nouns) are nouns that are talked about as quantities or masses of something. They do not have plural forms. For example, the nouns 'water,' 'breath,' 'air,' and 'experience' are only used in the singular when they describe quantities of something.

      • His boots were stuck in the mud.
      • She poured herself a glass of water.
      • The rice just finished cooking.
      • He has a lot of experience working with children.
      • They packed the team's equipment on the bus.

       

      Some nouns can be used as count nouns for one meaning and noncount nouns for another meaning. This is sometimes the case with words that are used in idioms or set phrases: 'water' is a noncount noun when it is used to describe the clear liquid with no taste or smell, but it is a count noun when it is used in the phrases "troubled/dangerous waters," "test the waters," and "muddy the waters." (You can find many more phrases and idioms using "waters" in this way here: https://learnersdictionary.com/definition/water.)  When a noun has both count and noncount uses, we will label each individual definition as it is used. When a word is only a count noun or only a noncount noun, we will only show one label for the whole entry.

       

      I hope this helps.

       

       

      I hope this helps.

       

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