Mass Nouns: What is a Mass Noun?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on April 17, 2023

There are many mass nouns in English, but do you know what they are? If you’re unsure, read on; this article will tell you everything you need to know about them. We've talked about regular nouns and plural nouns, so now we'll focus on mass nouns.

In short:

  • Mass nouns are the name given to things that cannot be counted.

What is a Mass Noun?

Mass nouns are also referred to as uncountable or non-count nouns. But what does this particular category of nouns refer to?

Let’s find out.

Meaning of a Mass Noun

A mass noun basically refers to something that cannot be counted or is challenging to count.

There are different kinds of uncountable things, for example:

  • Liquids (water, beer),
  • Gases (air, smoke),
  • Some foods (rice, butter),
  • Abstract things (art, love), and so on.

Mass nouns don’t have a plural form and therefore don’t use numbers, nor do they use articles.

  • They are always singular, which is essential to know so that you can make sure you use correct subject-verb agreement if the mass noun is the subject of your sentence.

For example:

The rices are already on your plate. ❌

The rice is already on your plate. ✅

Although there is, of course, more than one grain of rice on your plate because rice would be tough to count, the word ‘rice’ is a mass noun and, therefore, always singular. That’s why in the above example, we use the singular form of the verb ‘be,’ not the plural form.

Mass Nouns vs Collective Nouns

  • Two concepts that often get confused are mass nouns and collective nouns.

A collective noun is a noun that refers to a group of things.

Here are a few examples of collective nouns:

One big difference between mass and collective nouns is that collective nouns can be pluralized. You can say, for example, “Two pairs of shoes.” As well as that, you can usually count the items contained within a collective noun.


Did you know that some nouns can be both mass nouns and count nouns? Not at the same time, mind you. They’re very versatile words that can be used in different contexts.

Here are just a few examples of such words, but there are many more.

I have faith that things will get better.
There are many different faiths in our city.

I don’t have the strength to deal with this today.
What strengths does she bring to the table?

The table is made of glass
Where did I leave my glasses?

Examples of Mass Nouns

So now we’ve covered the basics of what a mass noun is, let’s take a look at some examples of mass nouns used in a sentence.

He needs to gain some weight before we can release him from the hospital.

This room has too much color; you need more neutral tones.

The equipment is already packed into the truck.

I like to listen to music in the morning.

Where’s your sense of humor?

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on mass nouns.

Let’s review what we’ve learned.

Mass nouns:

  • They are also known as uncountable or non-count nouns.
  • Refer to things that can’t be counted.
  • It can’t be pluralized.
  • They are different from collective nouns.
  • Require correct subject-verb agreement.

If you find this article helpful and want to further your grammar education, visit our blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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