View table of contents for this book View table of contents for LinguaLinksLibrary Go to LinguaLinks home page
 

What is a mass noun?

 

Definition
 

A mass noun is a noun whose referents are not thought of as separate entities.

 

It may have distinguishing features such as the following:

 
  • The inability to take a plural form
  • Cooccurrence with some determiners (such as some and much), but not others (such as the English many)
Discussion
 

Some nouns may permit treatment as either count or mass nouns.

 
Example:

In English, salad may be treated as either a count or mass noun, as evidenced by the acceptability of the following expressions:

  • many salads
  • much salad
Examples (English)
 
  • The word furniture is a mass noun. It cannot take the plural suffix -s:

  • * furnitures
  • In addition, it can occur with some determiners, but not others:

  • the furniture
  • much furniture
  • some furniture
  • * a furniture
  • * many furnitures
  • Source:

    Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 246

  • Generic
      A mass noun is a kind of
     
    Sources
     

    Hartmann and Stork 1972 137

     

    Crystal 1985 189

     

    Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 246

     

    Mish 1991 731


    Context for this page:

    Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

    Page content last modified: 5 January 2004

    © 2004 SIL International