Re: mass/count nouns

From: lakr (
Date: Wed Sep 10 1997 - 19:40:31 EDT

> The problem here is that you can't take a noun out of context and determine
> if it is a count or non-count (mass) noun. Count or non-count is determined
> by usage in context. If a word is usually used as a count noun, a dictionary
> or grammar might call it a count noun, but that does not mean that it cannot
> be used as a non-count noun. Consider "chicken" (usually considered a count
> noun) in the following sentence: "I had chicken for dinner last night." Here
> "chicken" is non-count. This is a fairly common use of the word so some
> dictionaries list the meaning "fowl" as a count noun, and the meaning "the
> flesh of that fowl" as non-count. In the same way, I could say, "I had cat
> for supper," and that would be a non-count use of the word. Your sentence
> "He returned from the holiday and as he entered the house he could smell
> cat," would be slightly less objectionable to cat lovers, but is still a
> non-count use of the term. Dictionary makers must ignore the rather unusual
> uses of "cat" in this paragraph.
> Words that are generally used in a non-count sense can be used with a count
> sense. Take for instance the word "salt" (usually non-count) in the
> following sentence: "Most chemists have several salts on their laboratory
> shelves." Or consider "beauty" (usually non-count) in this sentence uttered
> by an archeologist who has just unearthed a well preserved coin: "Look at
> this beauty!" Here "beauty" is a countable noun.
> David R. Mills

Dear listers,
There is an interesting page from an English grammar Handbook (University
of Illinois) that has some tests for count/non-count(mass) nouns at

I realize that this is somewhat outside the charter of B-GREEK, but
it is helping me to understand this concept better. What strikes me
is the statement that a mass noun can be characterized by an *amount*
(like much) while a count noun can be - well - counted by *number*.

Therefore the example David gives above "beauty" can be expressed as
'she is *a* beauty' or 'she has *much* beauty' even though an adjective
like "beautiful" exists in English.

However, I don't think the same can be said for "god" in English. We
can say that one is "a god", or "the God", but not that one is "much god".
To get that sense in English we must say that one is godlike or that
they are divine. However we can say that there are *many* gods because
god is a count noun in English.

The question naturally comes to mind, then, in the Koine Greek,
would it be grammatically correct to use the Greek equivalent of
"much" with QEOS, and would this be a test as to whether it could be
used purely as a non-count noun ?

Larry Kruper

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:28 EDT