HomeQ&Aplural nouns or uncountable nouns

plural nouns or uncountable nouns

3
votes

Clothes is a plural noun. But I am not too sure why. What is the difference between a plural noun and a uncountable noun?.

17288 views
updated ABR 14, 2012
edited by ian-hill
posted by nila45

15 Answers

2
votes

Well, "collective nouns" are plural in meaning, but they are singular grammatically. For example: "Garlic is smelly". Unless you have an unusual sentence, the word "garlics" is not used. Technically, "garlic" is plural and "clove of garlic" is the singular, but they both use the singular verb form.

What makes you think that "garlic is technically plural"? The usual grammatical test would be whether it takes a singular/plural verb but you suggest that although it takes a singular verb, it is "technically" plural." What is the "technique" to which you refer?

Normally English recognizes "collective nouns" and "mass nouns". The former have an inherent notion of a "group of somethings" where the actual number is unspecified and irrelevant (because the group is treated as a unit) e.g. "crowd"/"herd"/"class"/"audience"/"flock"/"bunche(s)* of ...". Note, especially the last example, for which the following noun is plural. "Mass nouns normally refer to substances which are not "counted" but can be divided/partitioned/measured and, thus, involve qualifications such as "cups of ..."/"pairs of ..."/"pounds/kilos of ..."/"cloves/heads of ..."

updated FEB 7, 2011
posted by samdie
6
votes

Well, "collective nouns" are plural in meaning, but they are singular grammatically. For example: "Garlic is smelly". Unless you have an unusual sentence, the word "garlics" is not used. Technically, "garlic" is plural and "clove of garlic" is the singular, but they both use the singular verb form. Likewise, "clothing" is plural and "an article of clothing" is singular. "Celery" (plural) and "a stalk of celery" (singular). Cauliflower" (plural)and "a cauliflower floret" (singular). I'm sure you can think of other examples.....

I suppose the point is that the plural form of a collective noun does not involve the letter "s" and it is the same word as the word used in the singular phrase. "Garlic" and "a clove of garlic" both use the same word.

Clearly, not every plural form in English uses the letter "s". The word "teeth" is an example, but "teeth" is not a collective noun, because you would not say "The teeth is..." ; you would say "the teeth are...". Also, "teeth" does have a clear singular form, which is obviously "tooth".

I am hopeful that this has been understandable. Let me know if it's not, and I'll take another run at it.

updated NOV 20, 2009
posted by mountaingirl123
Ask Google the question "is garlic a mass noun?" and the top answers will indicate "yes." - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
4
votes

There are collective nouns and there are mass nouns. Mass nouns are also known as "noncount nouns."

A collective noun is any noun that describes a collective, one simple example being "herd." A herd of something consists in that which is (technically) countable.

Mass nouns are different, they consist of words such as "water" or "bread" which are usually not pluralized (although there is the word "waters" which is reserved for poetic expressions.)

This link explains mass nouns using a bit more detail. There is also a larger wikipedia article on the topic.

updated NOV 20, 2009
edited by Malenor
posted by Malenor
A count noun is any noun that is not a noncount or mass noun. A mass noun does not take an indefinite article, for ex. "flour." - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
Another example given above, "garlic," rather than "a garlic." But a collective noun such as "herd" takes the indefinite article. - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
2
votes

Countable Nouns

A countable noun (or count noun) is a noun with both a singular and a plural form, and it names anything (or anyone) that you can count. You can make a countable noun can be made plural and attach it to a plural verb in a sentence. Countable nouns are the opposite of non-countable nouns and collective nouns. In each of the following sentences, the highlighted words are countable nouns: • We painted the table red and the chairs blue. • Since he inherited his aunt's library, Jerome spends every weekend indexing his books. • Miriam found six silver dollars in the toe of a sock. • The oak tree lost three branches in the hurricane. • Over the course of twenty-seven years, Martha Ballad delivered just over eight hundred babies.

Non-Countable Nouns

A non-countable noun (or mass noun) is a noun which does not have a plural form, and which refers to something that you could (or would) not usually count. A non-countable noun always takes a singular verb in a sentence. Non-countable nouns are similar to collective nouns, and are the opposite of countable nouns. The highlighted words in the following sentences are non-countable nouns: • Joseph Priestly discovered oxygen. The word "oxygen" cannot normally be made plural. • Oxygen is essential to human life. Since "oxygen" is a non-countable noun, it takes the singular verb "is" rather than the plural verb "are." • We decided to sell the furniture rather than take it with use when we moved. You cannot make the noun "furniture" plural. • The furniture is heaped in the middle of the room. Since "furniture" is a non-countable noun, it takes a singular verb, "is heaped." • The crew spread the gravel over the roadbed. You cannot make the non-countable noun "gravel" plural. • Gravel is more expensive than I thought. Since "gravel" is a non-countable noun, it takes the singular verb form "is."

Collective Nouns

A collective noun is a noun naming a group of things, animals, or persons. You could count the individual members of the group, but you usually think of the group as a whole is generally as one unit. You need to be able to recognize collective nouns in order to maintain subject-verb agreement. A collective noun is similar to a non-countable noun, and is roughly the opposite of a countable noun. In each of the following sentences, the highlighted word is a collective noun: • The flock of geese spends most of its time in the pasture. The collective noun "geese" takes the singular verb "spends." • The jury is dining on take-out chicken tonight. In this example the collective noun "jury" is the subject of the singular compound verb "is dining." • The steering committee meets every Wednesday afternoon. Here the collective noun "committee" takes a singular verb, "meets." • The class was startled by the bursting light bulb. In this sentence the word "class" is a collective noun and takes the singular compound verb "was startled".

updated NOV 20, 2009
posted by ian-hill
2
votes

As plural, "clothes" cannot be a mass or noncount noun.

That may viewed as an example of a defect in the usual definition of "uncountable". No native speaker of English would say "Yesterday I had two clothes but today I bought another suit/dress and now I have three clothes." Thus one is left in the awkward position of saying "'clothes' is not uncountable but "clothes" cannot be counted." Rather than attempt to defend such an assertion, I would sooner attempt to revise the grammatical terminology.

updated NOV 17, 2009
posted by samdie
Why can't you count your clothes? It's just a plural noun without a singular (except perhaps "cloth"). - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
For example, "Put your clothes on!" indicates some things in particular, and these can be counted. - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
You do not count your "clothes"; you count your _sets_ of clothing. - Lasairfiona, NOV 17, 2009
So are you saying that "clothes" is a noncount noun? - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
0
votes

I agree about the word "clothes" except for calling it collective noun. It is not a collective noun but a mass or uncountable noun. I can't get through to people the fact that a collective noun TAKES AN ARTICLE, while a mass or noncount noun NEVER takes an article. I blame our educational system for the failure to get this point across.

updated NOV 22, 2009
posted by Malenor
0
votes

The word "clothes" is always plural and has no singular form. Example: My clothes are dirty.

It is possible that plural nouns to be "collective plural nouns" and as they do not admit "singular form" are called "plural nouns".

updated NOV 18, 2009
edited by nila45
posted by nila45
0
votes

Technically, "garlic" is plural and "clove of garlic" is the singular, but they both use the singular verb form.

The plural of a "clove of garlic" would be "cloves of garlic." Garlic remains garlic whether you are talking about one, or many. There is no plural /-z/ morpheme associated with garlic because it is considered a mass noun. For example:

Can you hand me the garlic on the table (referring to a single bulb)

and

Where do you keep your garlic?

Notice that when talking about one or many, the word is invariable. Try replacing the word garlic with some other fruit and notice how the word varies depending on number (singular/plural) peach/peaches, apple/apples, etc.

Note - Notice that the first example could also be taken too mean more than a single bulb if there were more than one bulb of garlic on the table.

updated NOV 18, 2009
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
Sorry, "garlic" is a mass noun and can therefore, for that reason, never be considered plural. - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
0
votes

The more I read about this subject, the more I am convinced that “clothes” is a plural noun.

A plural noun is a noun for a collectivity.

A uncontable noun is a noun for something that can be divided into parts.

Can you imagine you divinding “clothes”?. I think it must be treated as a plural noun.

By the way, to say "two pieces of clothes" we say "dos prendas de vestir".

But, we cannot say "two garments of clothes" I suppose.

And I am not sure about this concept. Isn't it better to say "collective plural nouns" instead of plural nouns?.

updated NOV 18, 2009
edited by nila45
posted by nila45
0
votes

So to answer the first part of your question, "clothes" is a plural noun, but not a mass noun, as it has no singular form (unless you include the word "cloth" as the singular form of "clothes"). As plural, "clothes" cannot be a mass or noncount noun.

updated NOV 17, 2009
edited by Malenor
posted by Malenor
"cloths" (not "clothes") is the plural cf "cloth. e.g. "We import many fine cloths from ..." - samdie, NOV 17, 2009
I agree. "Clothes" is an archaic way of expressing "cloths" according to some of the online dictionaries. - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
"cloth," by the way, is a mass noun when used in general; but it is a count noun when used in the example above. - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
0
votes

When you say "uncontable" (uncountable?) noun, do you mean a collective noun? Example: "garlic" is plural in concept although it is singular in a grammatical sense, whereas "a clove of garlic" is singular in concept.

updated NOV 17, 2009
posted by mountaingirl123
"Plural in concept" is an interesting way of describing what a mass or noncount noun does. - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
0
votes

"Garlic" is a mass noun. link

"'Despite the fact that it refers to countable objects, today’s word is a mass noun, which means that it has no plural. It behaves like nouns referring masses or substances with indeterminate boundaries, like "water," "air," "contemplation." We can say," two onions" but NEVER "two garlics;" instead, we must say "two heads of garlic" or "two cloves of garlic." '

What "Dr. Language" says here is true, but somewhat beside the point. The reason "garlic" is a mass noun is that it never takes an indefinite article ("a garlic") and is not capable of taking the plural ("two garlics"). So apparently "garlic" is considered a mass or substance with indeterminate boundaries.

updated NOV 17, 2009
posted by Malenor
0
votes

"Is there any difference between plural nouns and collective nouns?" Collective nouns may be plural, but plural nouns aren't necessarily collective nouns. This is because collective nouns are limited to a certain class of count nouns, such as the word "class." A collective noun can be used to describe a collective, or it can stand on its own (as in "a class" or "the herd") for short, as long as that which is being described (as in a herd OF water buffalo) is understood.

So there are basically two sets of nouns: "count nouns" and "noncount (or mass) nouns." A collective noun is a special type of noun which is in the set of count nouns. All other nouns that are not count nouns must be noncount nouns. Count nouns may be plural or singular, but noncount nouns must always be singular. "Hair" - used in general - is a noncount or mass noun, but "hairs" is a count noun because it is plural. "Money" - used in general - is a noncount or mass noun, but "monies" is a count noun because it is plural.

updated NOV 17, 2009
posted by Malenor
Of course we're talking about real words here not made-up ones, like "garlics" which isn't a count noun because it isn't a word at all. :) - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
"A hair" would be a count noun because it takes the indefinite article. "Hair" without the indefinite ariticle is a mass noun. - Malenor, NOV 17, 2009
0
votes

Plural nouns are both physically and grammatically plural. Example: books. I'm not sure a collective noun is the proper term (I am so not an English teacher) but the idea is that you are treating a plural amount of things as ONE group and therefore it is grammatically singular. This concept is used in a lot of slang where people simplify the concept to a singular and therefore the grammar is "easier".

I am not sure what you mean by uncountable but I hope the collective idea helps.

updated NOV 17, 2009
posted by Lasairfiona
0
votes

¿ ... ?

Is there any difference between plural nouns and collective nouns?

updated NOV 17, 2009
edited by nila45
posted by nila45
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