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I am an elderly Australian teaching translation from Chinese and Korean to English at an Australian university. A Korean student's translation read:

There have [sic?] been much response to ...

When I suggested that he should have written something more like There has not been much of a response ... (though my own translation was The response has been considerable), my students protested that a model translation prepared by a previous Canadian lecturer read:

There has been considerable response ...

I beat a strategic retreat and said I would look into the question. Considerable is a flexible word that can qualify countable and uncountable nouns, so its use does not appear to be decisive.

But the Canadian teacher's omission of an article indicates that he thought response could be uncountable; so I am beginning to think that North American differs from British English (which I usually use) in this respect. Perhaps this tells us something about the development of English.

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Edited your question a little to make it more readable. If you don't like the changes, roll it back. –  RiMMER Sep 30 '11 at 22:18

5 Answers 5

In the US, "response" can be a specific, countable noun ("How many responses have we received?") or a general reference to all pertinent responses, in which case it becomes a mass (uncountable) noun: Public response has been mixed.

Its use is very similar to the use of "reaction," which can also be a count noun ("What was his reaction?") or a mass noun ("The reaction was hysteria.").

I'm completely comfortable with constructions like "There's been considerable response/reaction."

I don't think your average American would be comfortable with Henry's final three examples, but not because of the countable/uncountable issue - more that they just sound strange.

I wouldn't say "there have been much response" because response is singular, even when referring to many responses at once. "There has been large response" sounds incorrect in the same way "There was large money" does - and money is a mass noun both in the UK and the US.

For the final example, I think its negative version is fine - "There hasn't been much response" and "There hasn't been much of a response" both sound natural to me.

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Yes, response can be used as a non-count noun, at least sometimes. It is fairly uncommon in American English.

The phrase considerable response appears twice in the Corpus of Contemporary American English:

A recent column I wrote concerning excessive boat traffic on coastal flats sparked considerable response.

The simplicity and directness of Methodist exhortations to thrift, hard work and prudence, their image of life as “a dreadful conflict with the powers of darkness,” and the sense of local independence which their early circuits cultivated, found considerable response among suburban clothiers.

These sound spot-on to me, if anything a bit posh. (The second example is from an academic paper, published in 1993, entitled Knowing one’s place: Perceptions of community in the industrial suburbs of Leeds, 1790-1890.)

The corpus also has other uses of non-count response, without considerable. But is it just me or do most of them carry a whiff of jargon?

And that may help explain why this proposal has moved so quickly through the Senate, and with so little response from the academic community.

I asked other church leaders to comment on that, but there was little response.

We have had overwhelming response from our fans.

[…] for instance, many of the most widely used anti-depression and anti-anxiety drugs can chill sexual response, […]

Response at the cellular level is hard to measure.

If you were just talking about people responding to something you said or wrote, you wouldn’t say, There was response. It wouldn’t sound right. So I think non-count response is marginal.

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I agree with your assessment of the tone being posh or jargon. It sounds a lot like the situations where one would use the pronoun one instead of you to make it sound more general, less personal, and thus more academic. –  Andrew Vit Oct 1 '11 at 17:26

Personally (in the UK) I would happily use any of the following

  • There have been many responses
  • There has been a large response
  • There has been a considerable response
  • There has not been much of a response
  • There has not been much response
  • There have not been many responses

I might use the following, but less comfortably

  • There has been considerable response
  • There has been much response

I would not use the following

  • There have been much response
  • There has been large response
  • There has been much of a response

Sadly I do not see a particular logic in this

Added: Another word which I would treat similarly is difference; nicholas ainsworth has suggest time, which is close though I might not say something like "not much of a time". Again, I don't know why.

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“Sadly I do not see a particular logic in this” I think at least you can rule out singular response with the plural verb have. –  Jason Orendorff Oct 1 '11 at 7:31

There has been considerable response Is commonly used in North America. I described this use to an Italian student as colloquial shortening of The number of responses is high enough to warrant serious consideration.

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Perhaps 'response' in the example is a generic and thus presented in the singular.

Another useful example is: There has been considerable time spent on this question.

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