A List of 130 Mass Nouns (or Noncount Nouns) in English

No, You Can't Have Two Spaghettis

cat eating spaghetti
In English grammar, the words cat, plate, fork, and table are count nouns, but spaghetti is a mass noun (or noncount noun). (L Alfonse/Getty Images)

Have you ever wondered why you can have two plates of spaghetti but not two spaghettis? Or two bags of rice but not two rices?

Most nouns In English grammar are like the words plate and bag: they can be counted. Count nouns, as they're called, have both singular and plural forms, such as "one diamond" and "four diamonds."

But there's also a group of nouns that can't be counted. These mass nouns (which are sometimes called noncount nouns) usually have only singular forms — spaghetti, rice, and gold, for example.

 

Count nouns in the singular can follow an indefinite article (or other determiner): a plate, a bag, one diamond. Mass nouns, on the other hand, usually don't follow an indefinite article, though they can follow certain determiners (such as much or less). 

At times the distinction between count nouns and mass nouns gets a little fuzzy. For example, the word water is usually treated as a mass noun, but in some contexts water can take the -s ending: "Hammerhead sharks are found worldwide in warmer waters along coastlines and continental shelves."

The word chicken is another fuzzy example. When we're talking about the meat ("We had chicken again for dinner"), chicken is a mass noun. But when we're referring to the animal ("The cat chased the chickens out of the garden"), chicken is a count noun.

Keep this fuzziness in mind as you review the following list of 130 mass nouns in English. In certain contexts, some of these nouns can take an -s ending.

Also note that a number of these words can be used as more than one part of speech. The sentences in parentheses illustrate how the words are used as nouns.

  1. admiration (I have a deep admiration for any writer whose books stay in print.)
  2. advice (As usual, my brother gave me some bad advice.)
  3. air (The air in the storeroom was musty and cold.)
  1. anger (Whenever you get angry, you poison your own system.)
  2. anticipation (Anticipation is usually greater than realization.)
  3. assistance (I need your assistance with these problems.)
  4. awareness (Awareness of problems is no guarantee they will be solved.)
  5. bacon (I associate the smell of bacon with Sunday mornings.)
  6. baggage (At the airport I lost my baggage but found a new friend.)
  7. blood (Churchill said, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.")
     
  8. bravery (It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.)
  9. chess (I played two games of chess with myself.)
  10. clay (The birds built their nests out of clay.)
  11. clothing (The vast majority of donated clothing is exported overseas.)
  12. coal (Coal was burned as a fuel in China more than 3,000 years ago.)
  13. compliance (The building was not in compliance with local fire codes.)
  14. comprehension (Comprehension can't take place when students are distracted.)
  15. confusion (If confusion is the first step to knowledge, I must be a genius.)
  16. consciousness (Nobody knows how many fundamental forms of consciousness exist in the human brain.)
  17. cream (My favorite dessert is strawberries and cream.)
     
  18. darkness (Education is the movement from darkness to light.)
  1. diligence (The supervisors' lack of diligence led to disasters of gigantic proportions.)
  2. dust (Their faces were caked with orange dust.)
  3. education (Education is the movement from darkness to light.)
  4. empathy (Socially skilled people are adept at managing teams: that's their empathy at work.)
  5. enthusiasm (Even small rewards may spark the children's enthusiasm and ambitions.)
  6. envy (She saw envy in the eyes of her friends.)
  7. equality (The global challenge of achieving full gender equality and human rights for women remains enormous.)
  8. equipment (We used camels to carry all our equipment and provisions.)
  9. evidence (The investigators looked for evidence in the debris.)
     
  10. feedback (Negative feedback is better than no feedback at all.)
  11. fitness (Fitness and good health are the result of a change in lifestyle.)
  12. flattery (Sue wasn't deceived by their flattery and lies.)
  1. foliage (Late summer and fall bring bright fruits and colorful foliage.)
  2. fun (Tom liked being around our family for the fun we had and our big fancy dinners.)
  3. furniture (Jane looked around at the bare walls and broken furniture.)
  4. garbage (The skunk fell asleep in the garbage bin.)
  5. gold (The crown was made of gold and precious stones.)
  6. gossip (The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.)
  7. grammar (I studied English grammar in grammar school.)
     
  8. gratitude (The hiker expressed her gratitude to the boys who had rescued her.)
  9. gravel (The path to the beach was made of gravel.)
  10. guilt (If you do the right thing, you won't feel any guilt.)
  11. happiness (Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember.)
  12. hardware (Until it's loaded with software, a computer is just a piece of hardware.)
  13. hate ("Hate cannot drive out hate," Dr. King said. "Only love can do that.")
  14. hay (The children played in the hay all day.)
  15. health (Good health is something that most of take for granted.)
  16. heat (If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.)
  17. help (When he couldn't put out the fire by himself, John went to get help.)
     
  18. hesitation (When the alarms went off, Bruno acted without hesitation.)
  19. homework (Jorge decided to finish his homework before going out.)
  20. honesty (A good relationship is based on honesty.)
  21. honor/honour (Our parents deserve our honor and respect for giving us life itself.)
  22. hospitality (I thanked Marie's mother for her hospitality.)
  23. hostility (New immigrants are sometimes met with hostility from older immigrants.)
  24. humanity (Though Earl had been mistreated, he never lost his faith in humanity.)
  25. humility (Gratitude and humility are the true keys to success.)
  26. ice (Franklin's ship was stuck in the ice.)
  27. immortality (The key to immortality is living a life worth remembering.)
     
  28. independence (Texas declared independence in 1836 and joined the U.S. in 1845.)
  29. information (There is too much information and not enough time.)
  30. integrity (The most important character trait of a leader is integrity.)
  1. intimidation (The boss used intimidation to keep his staff in line.)
  2. jargon (The doctor's jargon confused the patient.) 
  3. jealousy (Passion can quickly turn into jealousy.)
  4. jewelry (Jennifer left her jewelry on the dressing table.)
  5. justice (Justice delayed is justice denied.)
  6. knowledge (A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.)
  7. literacy (My parents gave me the gift of literacy.)
     
  8. logic (Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.)
  9. luck (Dan's luck ran out when his van ran out of gas.)
  10. lumber (A truckload of lumber was stolen from the sawmill.)
  11. luggage (The airline lost my luggage.)
  12. mail (The letter carrier delivered my mail to the wrong address.)
  13. management (Poor management leads to low morale and inefficiency.)
  14. merchandise (The expensive merchandise sat on the shelves gathering dust.)
  15. milk (Drinking too much milk can spoil a child's appetite.)
  16. morale (Poor management leads to low morale and inefficiency.)
  17. mud (The detective noticed that the suspect had mud on his shoes.)
     
  18. music (I can't listen to music while I'm trying to write.)
  19. nonsense (It's nonsense to think that you can lose weight just by taking a pill.)
  20. oppression (Sooner or later, oppression leads to rebellion.)
  21. optimism (Optimism is an important part of good leadership.)
  22. oxygen (The diver ran out of oxygen before reaching the surface.)
  23. participation (Participation in school sports often has a positive effect on children's grades.)
  24. pay (The strikers demanded higher pay.)
  25. peace (We wanted only to be left alone, to live in peace.)
  26. perseverance (With perseverance and passion you can achieve your goals.)
  27. pessimism (Jill couldn't put up with Will's unrelenting pessimism.)
     
  28. pneumonia (Winston has just recovered from a bout of pneumonia.)
  29. poetry (Peter's poetry is pretty awful.)
  30. police (Mrs. Sanchez called the police last night.)
  31. pride (John's pride was hurt by Joan's sarcastic remarks.)
  32. privacy (J.D. Salinger valued his privacy.)
  33. propaganda (Propaganda helps people to deceive themselves.)
  34. public (The young violinist lacked the confidence to perform in public.)
  35. punctuation (Punctuation is the written expression of pauses and gestures.)
  36. recovery (The insurance agency assisted in the recovery of the stolen jewels.)
  37. rice (Rice is the most important food crop in the developing world.)
     
  38. rust (Achilles scraped the rust off the head of his spear)
  39. satisfaction (Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take.)
  40. shame (Imagine the shame of being caught cheating!)
  41. sheep (Merino sheep are an important source of high-quality wool.)
  42. slang (Slang is a sport that belongs essentially to the young.)
  43. software (Until it's loaded with software, a computer is just a piece of hardware.)
  44. spaghetti (Paul's favorite food is spaghetti.)
  45. stamina (It takes stamina and persistence to succeed in any sport.)
  46. starvation (The early American colonists faced the risk of starvation.)
  47. steam (Steam was the first great power source of the industrial age.)
     
  48. steel (In 1943 all pennies in the U.S. were made of steel.)
  49. stuff (Nobody was allowed to touch my Dad's stuff.)
  50. support (Maria knew that she could depend on the support of her mother.)
  51. sweat (Churchill said, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.")
  52. thunder (Thunder rumbled over the western hills.)
  53. timber (Basswood is the best timber for building pulpits.)
  54. toil (Churchill said, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.")
  55. traffic (The traffic was so bad that we had to give up and go back home.)
  56. training (Birdie injured her knee while she was in training for a marathon.)
  57. trash (The dog had emptied the trash all over the kitchen floor.)
     
  58. understanding (I have only a limited understanding of basic physics.)
  59. valor (The soldiers exhibited valor in the face of extreme peril.)
  60. vehemence (John was surprised by the vehemence of Joan's response.)
  61. violence (Violence never achieves peace)
  62. warmth (She felt the warmth of the breeze on her arms.)
  63. waste (Poor planning led to an enormous waste of time and money.)
  64. weather (Bad weather slowed the recovery efforts.)
  65. wheat (Wheat is the most important source of vegetable protein in our food.)
  66. wisdom (When the fight started, Pete had the wisdom to call a time-out.)
  67. work (The fire was the work of a careless burglar.)