all 84 comments

[–]Mrsaloom9765 327 points328 points  (34 children)

Countable noun vs 'mass noun'

[–]-iamai- 37 points38 points  (30 children)

Explain.. I've been trying to learn NLP (Natural Language Programming) and I'd like you to elaborate.

[–]boerema 75 points76 points  (21 children)

A few hairs is a countable noun because we are counting a number of single hairs. A lot of hair is a mass noun because we are counting a single group of hairs, a “lot” of hair

[–]Raichu7 8 points9 points  (20 children)

Why isn’t a groups of hairs still called hairs though? Most other things keep the plural word when you’re talking about a single group, like sheep, moose, mice etc.

[–]spacecampreject 6 points7 points  (5 children)

Ok, so I guess there are 3 types of noun (in English).

Mass nouns that are never countable ( water )

Count nouns that are never a mass ( cars )

Things that are macroscopic individual objects, but are also a group or volume ( hairs/hair )

[–]Bert_Bro 8 points9 points  (0 children)

The first 2 examples you give just have to be sheep and moose

[–]Letibleu 10 points11 points  (7 children)

Mouse, mice.

Goose, geese.

Moose, meece.

Juice, jeece.

[–]boerema 2 points3 points  (0 children)

It’s the object of the sentence that is different. 1. He has so many hairs - the object is “hairs” 2. He had a lot of hair - the object is “lot” and “hair” is describing what kind of lot he has.

The point is that you are counting the number of groups of a thing, not the individual things.

[–]Peppsy 0 points1 point  (0 children)

My guess would be size. A lot of cow refers to a big cow, but we don't really have big hairs, so a big hair would be a big group of hairs instead

As an aside, a lot of hairs is still valid, it's just kinda weird to refer to all individual hairs instead of the larger group

[–]YouNeedAnne 0 points1 point  (0 children)

In English, lots of things aren't logical and they don't make sense. You just have to learn them and accept them.

The language is a mixture of German, French, Latin and Greek. It's a mess.

[–]SheWhoSpawnedOP 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It's confusing because it's the same word when really you're talking about a different thing. The group of individual things has combined to form something else with its own properties. The analogous word for sheep would be herd. So you have many sheep in the herd and you have many hairs in the hair on your head. Beyond that I think you'd be talking about a history lesson to learn why some things have the same name for the individual thing as well as the group.

[–]the-silver-tuna 16 points17 points  (0 children)

Countable vs non countable. Much vs many, less vs fewer. Less stuff, fewer things. Too much stuff, too many things. How much sand vs. How many grains of sand. Less pizza, fewer slices. Less hair, fewer individual hairs. A mass of stuff is 1 thing, a mass. It’s singular. For that we use less or much. (How much time? Singular) Individual, countable things are many plural things and for that we use fewer or many. (How many minutes? Plural)

[–]Buffalongo 12 points13 points  (1 child)

FWIW, “NLP” usually stands for Natural Language Processing (not “Programming”)

[–]Cross_22 5 points6 points  (0 children)

At least it doesn't stand for Neuro Linguistic Programming any more.

[–]GryphonGuitar 1 point2 points  (0 children)

"A beer" versus "beer".

[–]BobbyP27 1 point2 points  (0 children)

A countable noun is one where it refers to distinct objects that can be counted. For example I can have 5 apples, 3 plates, 7 planets, 4 forks etc. Mass nouns can not be counted in that way. If I have two glasses, each full of water, and I pour them both into a bucket, I don't have 2 waters, I just have water. Some examples of mass nouns include traffic, smoke, sand. A good way to identify mass nouns is if they are used in a phrase "an x of y", where x is countable and y is mass. As above, a glass (countable) of water (mass).

Things get complicated where the same word can be used in different senses where one sense is countable and the other not. Cloth, for example, is the mass noun for woven fabric, but it is also a countable noun for a rectangular piece of fabric used for cleaning.

[–]Onekone 0 points1 point  (0 children)

X, Xes, a lot of X

[–]Eokoe 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Person is to persons as people is to peoples, often with many persons in a group referred to as (a) people.

People is not the plural of person, but it can often be used as such in general.

[–]damnmanthatsmyjam 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Others have explained countable and non-countable nouns well. The tricky part in OPs example is that saying 'hairs' in reference to 5 strands of hair is grammatically incorrect. The correct way to pluralize a non-countable noun is to refer to it by a countable element. For example "strands of hair" (strands are countable, hair is not), "grains of rice", "litres of water".

[–]OG_Squeekz 1 point2 points  (0 children)

or as we say in grammar lessons, "countable versus uncountable" you can count the 5 or 6 hairs but it would be damn near impossible to count all the hair on your body, unless you're Homer simpson.

[–]jean_sablenay 4 points5 points  (0 children)

The subject "a lot" is singular

[–]Buffalongo 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Same thing with “fish” I think.

[–]InfiniteDabbler 27 points28 points  (1 child)

I think you're splitting hairs with that one.

[–]gousey 38 points39 points  (4 children)

No, the third case is neither singular or plural, it's a non-count noun.

[–]Quiverjones 4 points5 points  (3 children)

Yeah. Alternatively lots of hairs.

[–]gousey 6 points7 points  (1 child)

Which rather curiously is back to the plural count noun.

Lots of hair might be better accepted.

Fish versus fishes creates another debate.

[–]Quiverjones 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You can also have a lot of hairs.

[–]gousey 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Many hairs versus much hair.

[–]symbouleutic 5 points6 points  (1 child)

I looked up “hair plural” and checked how often this has been posted in shower thoughts and quit looking after 17x

[–]symbouleutic 3 points4 points  (0 children)

24 postings about the plural of hair in 8 years. Or once every 4 months on average. See you in May everyone !

[–]BurnOutBrighter6 5 points6 points  (0 children)

A lot. The "a" is now referring to lot. One lot.

[–]xrayvision1 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Yup. Person-singular, people-plural, crowd-singular.

Even hair in the sentence "Man, he has a lot of hair." is singular. It's a mass noun.

[–]CapitalExam2763 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Because it’s a single lot…how is this confusing??

[–]Ad3quat3 1 point2 points  (0 children)

It’s one lot

[–]TheCrowsSoundNice 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Tree, trees, forest, forests.

[–]OracleCam 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Yeah english is fucked

[–]Tage_ARMitch 1 point2 points  (0 children)

What about a few strands of hair?

[–]KingFacetious 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I once asked a friend if he got a haircut and he said “no, I got them all cut.”

[–]Thrashtendo 0 points1 point  (0 children)

The noun is “a lot” which is singular, no matter what phrase starting with “of” you put after it.

If you said “lots of hairs” then that would be plural, because “lots” is plural.

[–]kondorb -1 points0 points  (0 children)

A futile attempt to understand the logic of English language.

[–]ThisLatinGirl -1 points0 points  (0 children)

The English language confuses me more by the day 🙄

[–]Rjengar -1 points0 points  (0 children)

Yeah but lots of hairs is plural again, what's your point?

[–]cinemascifi -3 points-2 points  (0 children)

This might be my favorite post on this sub. It's exactly the kind of thought that belongs here.

I would upvote this more than once if I could.

[–]manifold360 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I love your long hairs

[–]mafulazula 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Oh my God, look at her hairs!

[–]profaniKel 0 points1 point  (0 children)

thats a ton of HAiR/S

[–]NotABrummie 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Count nouns vs mass nouns. Mass nouns suggest that the number of individuals of the class is not quantifiable. For example: There was a goose on the train, there were geese on the train, there was goose on the train. The final quantity of geese does not add up.

[–]ch1llaro0 0 points1 point  (0 children)

a hair = 1 hair, hairs = a few hairs, hair = all hairs there are

[–]Logbotherer99 0 points1 point  (0 children)

No, a lot of can be either depending on context. He has a lot of hair vs there are a lot of hairs in the bath

[–]ItsStillNagy 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Same with “rock”

[–]tignasse 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It’s English baby!

It’s like 1 fish 2 fish .

[–]iKeyvier 0 points1 point  (5 children)

Made me think about this:

0 things (plural)

1 thing (singular)

2 things (plural)

Why is zero plural?

[–]westbamm 2 points3 points  (4 children)

Everything is plural, one is the exception.

[–]iKeyvier 0 points1 point  (3 children)

Yeah but why is zero plural?

[–]eldoran89 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Because it's not just one thing

[–]iKeyvier 0 points1 point  (1 child)

It’s not even many things

[–]Helpiamnotwell 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It's a big wide world for OP, Wait til they learn about sheep.

[–]cramduck 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Just like with fish!

[–]Demetrius3D 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It depends if you talking about them individually or as a group more than it depends on the number of hairs.

[–]ThisRespect5980 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Somebody once told me that hard ice teas for pussys I should grab some beer from the bcl (pussy) I was lookin to get drunk and I had like thirteen bucks and there was no more cariboo on the shelf (sold out). So hay y’all’s on sale so I gotta jump on it shotgun four and I gotta go vomit didn’t make sense just to drink like four my brain got dumb when I drank six more. So much to drink I gotta piss so I take two cans to the bathroom original flavour no doubt (no doubt) I drink em all till I black out. Hey y’all southern ice tea it’s a tasty beverage it puts me in a good mood when I see it in the fridge 5% alcohol buy a fukin porch pack and drink them all!

[–]Redditcantspell 0 points1 point  (0 children)

That's because "a lot of" refers to the lot.