Common Mass Nouns and Their Rules

Posted by on September 27, 2013


A noun can be defined as: the name of a person, place, thing, or idea. Basically, whatever exists, can be named and that name is a noun. There are proper nouns, which names a specific person, place, or thing (Katrina Kaif, Queen Vicotria, Asia, Varanasi, India, Acer Computer, God, Hinduism, the BJP), is almost always capitalized. There are also common nouns which name everything else, things that usually are not capitalized (actress, queen, continent, city, country, religion).
Nouns can be categorized in to two basic types, Count Nouns and Mass Nouns (non-count nouns or uncountable nouns).

Count Nouns name everything that can be counted (2 bananas, 4 classes, 1 country, 5 religions, 100 computers).


Mass Nouns name everything that cannot be counted, things such as liquids (Water, oil) abstract ideas (knowledge, advice) and things too small to be counted (rice, sand). We can also clump Collective Nouns in the Mass Noun category because, grammatically, they are treated the same.

So, why is all this important? There are several reasons why understanding nouns, and especially the difference between Count and Mass nouns is important.

One of the primary reasons is that the type of noun will determine whether an article should be used before the noun or not (singluar, countable nouns always have either an article or a possessor, but a Mass Noun does not need either).
Another reason is that even though a Mass Noun often referes to a plural concept, it is treated singularly in a sentence (There is lots of sand in Goa. where 'is' is singular but used with the plural concept of 'lots of sand').

Check out the image below for some rules on the usage of Mass Nouns. This should help you understand how a mass noun affects a sentence.

Mass Noun Rules


Now this might all sound a little tricky but really it's not too difficult. A good place to start is by becoming familiar with the most common Mass/Uncountable nouns and using these as the starting point of being able to identify other Mass nouns. The document below lists the most common Uncountable Nouns. Download and Enjoy:


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