I want to make the claim that uncountable nouns far outweigh countable ones in the English language, but a cursory search of the web did not lead me to anything that might support this claim, so all I have right now are my own personal observations. As much as there is to be said for experiential learning, it lacks a certain authoritativeness usually required when trying to make a point about something. Do any of you reading this happen to know if anyone has attempted to quantify such a thing?

  • Ngram Viewer shows that 'much' has actually declined relative to 'many' -- and just using your question as a sample, it has far more countable nouns. – amI Apr 2 '20 at 15:32
  • Since most nouns can be used either as a count or a mass noun, it's hard to see how anybody could count either, let alone their ratio. – jlawler Apr 2 '20 at 18:17
  • @jlawler You make a good point, but, without thinking too long and hard about this, I do believe some nouns are typically thought of as uncountable (e.g., water, rice, bread). And, presumbably, one could filter out all instances of "of" + uncountable noun (because typically this is how these types of nouns appear to be made countable). For example, We have water. vs. We have several bottles of water. – LISA Apr 10 '20 at 4:15
  • @jlawler But seeing as how the number of combinations that could be made rendering an uncountable noun into a countable one would be a mighty sum indeed, perhaps my query is too daunting for most to want to tackle. However, I would think that someone who has studied English collocations for a decent amount of time would be able to at least make a stab at this. Even so, I imagine it sounds a bit tedious and perhaps not much could be gained from it. An excellent project for a linguistics grad student perhaps? – LISA Apr 10 '20 at 4:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.