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Serenity Carr, Assistant Editor
Noun Types: Count Nouns and Noncount Nouns
Thursday October 19th 2017
Question
What does the term "count" or "noncount" mean before a definition? — Phillip , United States
Answer

We label two kinds of nouns in our dictionary: count and noncount.

 

Count nouns can be counted and so they have a plural form. Some count nouns are book, house, peanut, and idea.

Noncount nouns, sometimes called mass nouns, cannot be counted and so they do not have a plural form. Some noncount nouns are mud, coffee, energy, and happiness.

 

Some nouns can be count or noncount depending on which definition you are using. One example of a noun that can be used both ways is breath.

When we mean "the air that you take into your lungs and send out from your lungs when you breathe" it is a noncount noun, as in this sentence: It's so cold outside that I can see my breath.

When we mean "an amount of air that you take into your lungs" it is a count noun, as in this sentence: Take three deep breaths while the doctor listens to your lungs.

 

Some nouns can be count or noncount for a single definition. One example of a noun that can be used either way is practice.

The meaning "a regular occasion at which you practice something" can be count, as in this sentence: The team's practices usually last two hours. It can also be noncount, as in this sentence: The marching band has practice every Wednesday afternoon.

 

Count nouns can be counted (I have one book, and you have two books), and noncount nouns cannot be counted (I drink coffee every morning).

 

I hope this helps. For more posts about words and usage, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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