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Can listening be countable? Can I say We will do a listening during today's lesson?

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Only in Slovakia, my friend, only in Slovakia... – RiMMER Jan 19 '12 at 14:21
You could do a listening exercise. – z7sg Ѫ Jan 19 '12 at 14:43
Given thousands of written instances of a listening for you can obviously use it as a noun, and it certainly isn't a "mass noun", so - yes, you can say this. – FumbleFingers Jan 19 '12 at 14:57
@Fumble: that's good for an official answer. – Mitch Jan 19 '12 at 16:03
I encounter listen used as a noun more often than listening, usually in informal usages such as "Give it a listen" or "It'll grow on you by the third listen". – Marthaª Jan 19 '12 at 17:03
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can treat pretty much any -ing word as countable if you want to. Whether you want to or not depends on the effect you’re striving for. There is, for example, a children’s rhyme which includes ‘We / Are tired of scoldings and sendings to bed: / Now the grown-ups shall be punished instead.’ In other contexts, sendings would sound strange, and listenings would normally sound strange to me, too. Best avoided, I'd say.

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It might raise some eyebrows, but I don't believe it is wrong.

A Google Books search for "Some listenings" yields plenty of results.

By analogy, a viewing (of a house, or a movie) is countable.

There will be a viewing of my new movie on Thursday.

There will be a listening of our new record on Thursday.

Unusual, but not wrong.

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I like that "might raise some eyebrows". The problem here is when inexperienced non-native speakers ask whether they should use form A or B, it's not really a good idea to say "both are acceptable" if one of them is massively preferred over the other. People trying to learn English usually want to sound like the majority of native speakers. They don't want to get in the habit of using something "quirky" just because in principle it could be defended by a fluent competent speaker. – FumbleFingers Jan 19 '12 at 17:19
@slim .... or of a body – ThePopMachine Jan 19 '12 at 17:38
For once I agreee with FumbleFingers. :-) Just because some language constructs are common and accepted doesn't mean all comparable ones are. "A viewing" is a common term (of a movie preview or of a corpse). "A listening" is just ... not. In principle you could use "movie" as a verb and say, "My girlfriend and I went movieing Saturday." That follows the same rules used for other words. But no one says that, so it just sounds bizarre. – Jay Jan 19 '12 at 20:54
There is a huge gulf between what is legal and what people actually say. Certain constructs, while perfectly clear and valid, immediately indicate to a native speaker that the person using them is either joking or not a native speaker. "If a pedestrian obstructs your vehicular passage, tootle him gently" is perfectly valid English, but no native speaker would ever say it as anything but a joke. – David Schwartz Jan 20 '12 at 0:45

Do you mean can 'listening' be a noun, and thus be countable?

I would say that 'listening' is a verb phrase rather than a noun, though 'hearing' is a synonymous verb and also a noun.

Rather than 'We will do a listening during today's lesson', I would suggest 'We will listen to x during todays lesson.'

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Maybe this is a regionalism, but I've never heard someone use the word "listening" this way in the U.S. You can certainly say, "We will be listening during today's lesson." But "a listening"? No.

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Certainly one doesn't say "We will be a listening during today's lesson." unless you run around the forest chopping down trees with a girl twice your height, and then that's "a'listening" which is something different. The question is whether 'listening' can be considered a noun, and it certainly can (in the US). "We had many listenings of that recording" is perfectly fine. – Mitch Jan 19 '12 at 16:02
@Mitch: If the question is, "Can 'listening' ever be used as a gerund?" then the answer is clearly yes ... though I'd say such usage is pretty rare. Your example is about the only context I can think of where it would not sound pretty strange. (I don't doubt there might be some other examples, just not many.) Perhaps I should have given a longer answer to be more clear. You can say, "There were many listenings of the recording", but you wouldn't say, "We did a listening of the recording." "Do a <gerund>" in general is an unlikely construct. (continued) – Jay Jan 19 '12 at 20:42
(continued) The whole point of a gerund is to turn a verb into a noun. But "do a <noun>" is an attempt to turn a noun into a verb. Why would you turn a verb into a noun and then right back into a verb? At best it's wasted extra words, and thus it sounds awkward. Also "do a <noun>" is a rather vague and clumsy way to "verbify", which should only be used when there are no more accepted words available. Like, I don't "do a car", I "drive" or "repair" or "build" or whatever. (As always, there might be exceptions where you'd do something like this for emphasis or poetic style.) – Jay Jan 19 '12 at 20:46
It might be clumsy or inarticulate sounding for some '-ing's, but for others it is well establish. 'A 9 o'clock feeding', 'Are you coming for the viewing of the deceased?', 'The author will give a reading', 'The running of the bulls at Pamplona', etc, etc, etc. Also, pedantically, a noun with a verb root with an '-ing' ending is not always a gerund, especially the cases just given. – Mitch Jan 19 '12 at 21:29
@Mitch: RE some vs others: No debate there. There are many cases where a certain construct or usage is common with one word but not another. RE when is an -ing not a gerund: Hmm, obviously true that not all words ending in "ing" are gerunds. "There is a blue building on Elm Street" -- "building" is not a gerund. But "The building of the blue house was delayed" -- I thought that was a classic example of a gerund. It's certainly possible that I don't have the definition right, but I thought the examples you just gave are, in fact, gerunds. – Jay Jan 20 '12 at 15:16

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