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  1. #111
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    I am coming back, but to make a slightly different point. I have chosen a few rules/words as examples of types.

    1. Prescriptive Grammar

    a. The man who you were talking to is my former boss.
    b. The amount of movies that I saw right here was just astonishing.
    '
    c. I've seen less films than you.

    By the rules of prescriptive grammar, these three sentences are 'incorrect'.

    a. Who/whom. In British English, 'whom' is rarely heard in any but the most formal speech, and is not often seen in writing. I tell learners that they may wish to use 'whom' in formal writing, but that they should not bother about it in normal conversation. My personal view is that to insist on 'whom' would be to impose an artificial standard that few native speakers recognise. My job is to teach the English of today, not that of half a century or more ago.

    b. Amount/number; less/few/ . Here there are clear differences for some native speakers, though many are not sure about them. I tell learners the difference, though also tell them that they may hear many native speakers use the 'wrong' form. I also tell them that very few native speakers will even notice if learners use the wrong form. It is not something I would waste a lot of time on.

    2. Incorrect rules.

    d. We never use 'will' in the if-clause of a conditional sentence.
    e. 'Accommodation' is always uncountable.
    f. Music' is always uncountable.

    d. Will. This rule is simply wrong, and should not be given.
    e. Accommodation. Until fairly recently, this word was almost always used uncountably in British English, and the plural form jarred. However, it is beginning to appear in the plural form. I recommend that my students use it as a non-countable noun, but tell them that some native speakers do not do so. I suspect that the countable usage will become more common.
    c. Music. Some words, such as 'music' are almost always used non-countably and, in my opinion, learners should be told this. However, as we have seen, there are contexts it which they can be used countably. Such usage is not incorrect; it is merely rare. It is not for us to deny this.

    I'll close with some words from Noah Webster's Rudiments of English Grammar (1790):

    "Where are the rules of the language to be found?
    In the language itſelf."

  2. #112
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    In general, proper English is not spoken in many parts of England. There is this website where all those dialects can be heard. There is no way you can call that language acceptable.
    Something has just happened which has never happened to me on this forum before. I find myself actually offended by a post. I can assure you I am quite difficult to offend but I take exception to the part of your post which I have quoted above. As someone else said on the previous page "proper English" is an unreachable, impossible ideal and, in my opinion, there is no such thing. To tell people who speak their own language in their own regional dialect that the language they speak is unacceptable is ... unacceptable.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  3. #113
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    To tell people who speak their own language in their own regional dialect that the language they speak is unacceptable is ... unacceptable.
    ...and absurd.

  4. #114
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Something has just happened which has never happened to me on this forum before. I find myself actually offended by a post.
    Yes, I have to admit that this thread is truly unique (another example of poor English ). Earlier, Bennevis played the ad hominem card against me, and even though a moderator deleted his message, I did manage to read it and I have to say that I was slightly taken aback by it. I don't want to open up a whole new can of worms, but I must say that I find it unacceptable when someone judges a person whom he doesn't even know.

    I agree with you that it's unacceptable and absurd to tell people who speak English as their first language that their dialect is unacceptable. There is the dimension that whatever a native speaker says, is acceptable, simply because he or she said it. If a native speaker says something like,

    'So you're telling me that some nouns are absolutely uncountable? Well, it don't matter to me'

    or

    'Ain't nobody gonna tell me what a countable noun is!'

    then it is acceptable by definition. This is amplified by the frequency with which a particular "ungrammaticality" occurs, and isn't just a mistake they made unconsciously. Yes, these examples do not adhere to prescriptive grammar, but so what?

    My view is that a teacher should tell his or her students that not everyone adheres to prescriptive grammar. In fact, one only needs to rent a movie to discover this fact. Imagine if all movies were written with prescriptive grammar in mind? A gangster movie in which the characters speak English like you read about it the "Guide to Proper English"? No way, Goodfellas would been a terrible movie!
    Last edited by Chicken Sandwich; 10-Sep-2012 at 14:11.

  5. #115
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    And the simply message to students is "In exams (and perhaps situations like job interviews), stick to the prescriptive grammar from textbooks. In real life, as long as it's understandable, it really doesn't matter." The longer someone lives in an English-speaking country, the more they will realise that almost no-one speaks the English from textbooks.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  6. #116
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Chicken Sandwich View Post
    'So you're telling me that some nouns are absolutely uncountable? Well, it don't matter to me'

    or

    'Ain't nobody gonna tell me what a countable noun is!'

    then it is acceptable by definition.
    I would weaken this slightly. These sentences can be unacceptable to some in some situations. I don't think this is a black-and-white matter. But that's exactly why I think what Bennevis said was absurd. His statement was unqualified and unquantified. Just unacceptable -- no modifiers. That's impossible to defend.

  7. #117
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Chicken Sandwich View Post
    Earlier, Bennevis played the ad hominem card against me.
    Well, it was you who started it. Go back and see it for yourself. I did not start it. Your tone seemed vitriolic to me and I retorted.

    All I'm trying to do in this thread is ascertain whether there are nouns that can be only countable. A line should be drawn somewhere. You wanted me to prove that strictly countable nouns exist. And I'll tell you again - there are hundreds of thousands of them. I told you above - take a car, open the hood and look at the parts of the engine. Each of those nouns is STRICTLY countable.

    All I'm getting from you and the other guy is absolutely groundless structures that no normal speakers would use in real life. You've provided some examples that technically do the trick, but you simply cannot cope with the flood of nouns that are strictly countable. I wish I had a couple of supporters here to tell you where to get off, but for some reason it seems there is only one - the OP.

    Believe I'm not disputing for sake of disputing like you and the others have been doing throughout this thread. I just want an answer to the question 'Are there strictly countable or strictly uncountable nouns?'

  8. #118
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    I have closed this thread. It is serving no useful purpose and is generating bad feeling.

  9. #119
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Thank you for letting me post, bhai.

    I just wanted to add the phrase "a kind of X", where "X" is a noun that's usually countable, as in "a kind of bird" or "a kind of cup". I think it's obviously very common, and I don't see any bounds to what the X could be. I'm not saying there aren't any of course. And it's a construction that makes "countable" nouns uncountable.

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