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I'm looking for the name for the class of nouns that describe things whose quantity is continuous rather than discrete.

For example, "cream", "water", "fire" are all nouns in this set. In contrast, "sheep", "atoms" and "axes" are not.

The word that I am looking for would differentiate between when you say "so much" and "so many". You say "so much" for nouns in the class I'm talking about, and "so many" for those that aren't.

1 Answer 1

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Countable or count noun versus uncountable (or mass noun) does the job.

In linguistics, a count noun (also countable noun) is a noun that can be modified by a numeral and that occurs in both singular and plural forms, and that co-occurs with quantificational determiners like every, each, several, etc. A mass noun has none of these properties. It can't be modified by a numeral, occur in singular/plural, or co-occur with quantificational determiners.

Wikipedia article on "count nouns"

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  • I was really hoping "uncountable" wasn't the answer! I guess "mass noun" is an improvement in this regard. Here's hoping for another alternative, but thanks! Jul 9, 2015 at 10:08
  • Yeah ... I really wish there were a single word adjective like countable, but not uncountable :) Jul 9, 2015 at 10:26
  • I use "noncountable," but I'm in the clear minority if the google is to be believed.
    – deadrat
    Jul 9, 2015 at 11:27
  • @GreenAsJade "Uncountable" is the answer to the question as asked. If you're looking for something else, then I'm afraid you've asked the wrong question.
    – anemone
    Jul 9, 2015 at 11:36
  • I'm asking the right question. I don't have to like the answer ;) :D Jul 9, 2015 at 11:53

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