Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Mass Noun


A mass noun is a noun whose referents are not thought of as separate entities.

It may have distinguishing features such as the following:

  • The inability to take a plural form
  • Cooccurrence with some determiners (such as some and much), but not others (such as the English many)



Some nouns may permit treatment as either count or mass nouns.

Example: In English, salad may be treated as either a count or mass noun, as evidenced by the acceptability of the following expressions:

  • many salads
  • much salad


The word furniture is a mass noun. It cannot take the plural suffix -s:

  • furnitures

In addition, it can occur with some determiners, but not others:

  • the furniture
  • much furniture
  • some furniture
  • a furniture
  • many furnitures