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  1. #31
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    If you are only talking about the word on its own, yes. You can have a piece of furniture, an item of furniture, a style of furniture etc.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  2. #32
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    It CAN be countable as a bottle of water.
    OK, fine but then by the same logic "mayonnaise" can also be counted. "A mayonnaise" is "a bottle of mayonnaise". In my opinion this is just redefining what "mayonnaise" is.

  3. #33
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Here's a native-written sentence with "a furniture" in it:

    No matter what the existing style of your office, you can always choose a furniture that will fit perfectly into the room.

    (Designer Home Office Furniture: Cool Fixtures To Suit Your Home Office)

    "Water" doesn't have to mean bottle of water to be countable:

    The simplest adjustment involves control of pH and alkalinity to produce a water that tends to passivate corrosion by depositing a layer of calcium carbonate.

    (Water supply network - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    Bhai explained this in a previous post I think: "an X" can mean a kind of X.

  4. #34
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    Yes, that one I agree with!
    Good. It was one you set up as a challenge, and it wasn't so hard to find an example.
    But, I mean, there ARE nouns that can NEVER be countable or nouns that can never be uncountable, aren't there?
    Well, I can't at the moment come up with a convincing context for 'a furniture'. That doesn't mean there isn't one.
    Someone had to do some subsuming to organize things.
    The idea of nouns being used countably and/or non-countably can be very useful. Any attempt to claim that all nouns are either countable or non-countable is doomed to failure,
    Saying that countable/uncountable nouns are a figment of our imagination is but a stretch, isn't it?
    No. All grammatical terminology is but an attempt to help us describe language. There is for example, no such thing as a noun. 'Noun' is simply a very useful label to apply to one of a group of words that generally function in a similar way.

    ps (a couple of minutes later): I see that BC got in before me with a convincing example of 'a furniture'. Thanks, BC.

  5. #35
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    I really like this thread! Article usage learners would be nuts about it! The problem is non-native speakers weren't growing hearing English speech every day. They didn't have a chance to imbibe all the delicate nuances of article usage - in other words, they had no chance to hear "a" in front of "happiness" or anything of that sort. Russian doesn't have articles. But it has verb conjugations and noun declensions, which might seem extremely abstruse to a non-native speaker. WE NEED THOSE RULES - WE NEED THEM!

  6. #36
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    Russian doesn't have articles. But it has verb conjugations and noun declensions, which might seem extremely abstruse to a non-native speaker. WE NEED THOSE RULES - WE NEED THEM!
    I know how you feel. However, relying on rules is just too difficult and not always helpful. I know many Russians who, despite having memorised a bunch of rules, still make mistakes when it comes to articles. I don't have this problem because I learnt to speak Dutch at a very young age and the articles are used the same way as in English.

  7. #37
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    By the way, that "furniture" example should be shown to any native speaker whose English instruction books are used all over the world. Personally, I kinda like it! But it totally debunks certain theories non-native learners of English have been following for centuries!

  8. #38
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    By the way, that "furniture" example should shown to any native speaker whose English instruction books are used all over the world. Personally, I kinda like it! But it totally debunks certain theories non-native learners of English have been following for centuries!
    Well, I think it's a marginal example. Note that omtting the article wouldn't do any harm to the meaning. And I actually think most native speakers would not use the article there. But I'm not sure about it.

  9. #39
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Well, I think it's a marginal example. Note that omtting the article wouldn't do any harm to the meaning. And I actually think most native speakers would not use the article there. But I'm not sure about it.
    You are certainly correct about that. If I were asked to proofread that piece, I would delete the article and leave "... you can always choose furniture ...". However, I don't dispute that it is technically grammatically correct.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  10. #40
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    Default Re: Uncountable nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I do believe that if you think hard enough you can make any noun countable and any noun uncountable. It's just a matter of making up a suitable context. For some nouns such contexts would probably have to be extremely unlikely though.
    I'd just like to come back to this.

    It may surprise some followers of this thread (if there are any left!) to learn that I think the countable/non-countable idea is very useful indeed for learners. And, I have to confess, I do use the terms 'countable noun' and 'non-countable noun' as a useful shorthand in my teaching. But*, I have to take issue with such thoughts as
    But, I mean, there ARE nouns that can NEVER be countable or nouns that can never be uncountable, aren't there?
    This seems to me to be an attempt to turn a useful guideline into a scientific law. Once we walk down that slippery slope we are, in my opinion, just creating future problems for learners.

    I am now about to share with you one of my core beliefs in teaching and, as is so often the case with core beliefs, there is a cringe factor for some people. I don't always tell my students the whole truth but I never** lie to students. In my opinion, to say that some nouns are always countable (or non-countable) would not be provably true, and is therefore a potential lie.

    *That's the second sentence in this thread that I have begun with a conjunction!
    ** I try not to use the words 'aways' or 'never' in my teaching; I deliberately used the word 'never' there.

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