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According to the definition of the noun 'sex' in dictionaries, it means 'the PHYSICAL ACTIVITY that two people do together in order to produce babies or for pleasure.' If so, why isn't it countable?

'I had sex with her last night.' but not 'I had A sex / TWO sexes her last night.'

How do you count the activity? You go like 'I had sex with her twice.'?

I think that in general, a countable noun has a beginning and an end, viewed as a whole entity, while an uncoutable noun is undifferentiated and lacking in defined limits. Could the activity of sex continue no end? It must have a beginning and an end. The human can't do it forever even if he was cut out for it. Just saying the word is in itself an uncountable noun is a circular logic.

You could have A shag with her if you ask her out tomorrow.

why is 'shag' countable, while 'sex' is not? Both seem to refer to the same activity.


You say

  • Let's go for a drive.
  • I take a shower every day.
  • I had a walk in the morning.
  • I'm going for a stroll.

All the nouns refer to activities, and are used with the indefinite article.

I really want to know what you have in mind about the interesting noun 'sex' and the reason why it isn't countable.

closed as not a real question by tchrist, user21497, Barrie England, Kristina Lopez, user13141 Apr 14 '13 at 15:01

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    I had two colds and two bronchitises last year. We had company on Thursday, and we've got company again tomorrow. Two companies. It doesn't always work. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 14 '13 at 13:54
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    This is more of a rant than a real question. I vote to close. – user21497 Apr 14 '13 at 14:13
  • @Edwin: Can you really say "I had two bronchitises last year"? I've never heard of such a thing, only "I had bronchitis twice last year". – user21497 Apr 14 '13 at 14:15
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    I’m pretty sure you can never have more than two sexes at a time. – tchrist Apr 14 '13 at 14:16
  • I'm sorry, Bill - I don't know how to use the asterisk marker to show that half a sentence is wrong, but half correct. For some reason cold is a count noun but bronchitis (like most disease names), of course, isn't. Flu is rarely a count noun. Company in the sense I've used it isn't. I'm just putting semantically similar but syntactically differently-treated elements together in the first sentence, and using a word where different countable episodes occur but the noun isn't count in the others. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 14 '13 at 14:58
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Your analysis is strictly logical. Language is not strictly logical. I've been fighting that battle with myself all my life.

The answer to your question is that sex is a noncount noun because native Anglophones treat it as a noncount noun and use it as a noncount noun. That's idiomatic English, like it or not, logical or not.

Do you have a reference that says "You could have a shag with her" is possible in English? I don't use the word myself, but the verb to shag is a synonym for to have sex. If I were to use it, I would undoubtedly say "You could shag her if you asked her out tomorrow", not "You could have a shag with her": that sounds unnatural to me.

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    'A shag' is very common in the UK, in the sexual sense. Whether you have a shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis with any one is an entirely different question. – Mynamite Apr 14 '13 at 22:57
  • @Mynamite: Thank you. I didn't know that. I'm an "American speaker", which is why it sounds unnatural to me. I saw a few minutes of The Spy Who Shagged Me, but, frankly, junior high school humor turns me off & has for decades, so I didn't watch it & don't know whether or not the film uses "a shag". – user21497 Apr 14 '13 at 23:07
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    It's pretty crude. "You could have a shag with her" does sound unnatural, you'd be more likely to hear "You could shag her", but you would definitely hear something like: "Where's X?" "He's having a quick shag behind the bike shed". – Mynamite Apr 14 '13 at 23:16
  • @Mynamite: In which case "a shag" is an NP interchangeably synonymous with "a f**k" but not *"a sex". Thank you again. :-) – user21497 Apr 14 '13 at 23:24
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    We have 'fagged out' too, which I guess comes from this definition of fag. Ah the good old British class system at work again! – Mynamite Apr 14 '13 at 23:59

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