and uncountable nouns with different meanings
from Brazil writes:
some doubts about uncountable nouns. Music is uncountable,
so it is wrong if you use a before music. What is
the correct form to use? Is it possible to use a before an
adjective with an uncountable noun?
have a beautiful music to show you.
making a chocolate cake.
is also uncountable, so why is this correct?
Srinivas from India writes:
of the following sentences is correct: Don't music interest
you? / Doesn't music interest you?
You're quite right, Alexandre. Music is an uncountable or mass
noun so we cannot say a music or even a beautiful music.
Instead we have to use some or any or, if we want
to refer to a single piece of music, we must use a partitive construction
such as a piece of:
I'm going to play you some music by Chopin.
Have you heard this piece of music that he composed
I don't think I've ever heard any music by Chopin.
Most uncountable nouns, although they refer to mass items or collections
of things, take a singular verb:
Doesn't music interest you then?
The furniture that I saw in the department store was
The advice you gave me on how to study for the exam
was very useful.
Even the names of school subjects and leisure activities as uncountable
nouns ending in s are used mostly with singular verbs:
Maths is often perceived as a difficult subject, though
I would say physics is more demanding.
Billiards is an indoor table game and is
played with three balls, two white and one red.
Unlike music, cake can be used as an uncountable
or a countable noun, depending on whether you are thinking
of a mass of cake or an individual cake:
I'm going to bake achocolate cake this afternoon
and then, when it's ready, you'll be able to have some.
potato / pepper / onion
There are similar differences with other food items, depending
on whether you are thinking of them as mass or individual items.
Compare the following:
Have you got any salt and pepper to put on the dining table?
I couldn't decide whether to buy a red pepper or a yellow
Would you like some mashed potato? ~ No thanks, I'll just
have a roast potato.
Would you like any onion with your hot dog?
I'm going to cut up an onion and mix it with the salad.
paper / glass / cloth / work
Sometimes the meaning changes more radically with use of the countable
or uncountable form of the noun. Compare the following:
I'm going to buy an evening paper so that I can see
what's on tele tonight.
Here's some paper for you to draw on.
This lampshade is made of paper.
I don't need to wear glasses. My eyesight is pretty
If you have any wine, I'd like a glass of red wine,
It's better to use kitchen utensils made of glass,
Have you got a damp cloth? I've split some red wine
on the carpet.
There was not enough cloth remaining to make a second
There was no doubt. It was a masterpiece, a work of
I don't have any work next week, so, unless I get
some, I shall take the week off.
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