This might only apply to a few nouns, but I was wondering if there is a special name for nouns that colloquially aren't preceded by an article. For example we say "eating dinner" instead of "eating a dinner"; in the latter case we would say "having a meal" instead. Is there a name for nouns such as dinner?

  • 2
    You're probably looking for mass noun (or non-count noun), but almost all such nouns have cases where they are countable and therefore take a determiner: I'm eating the dinner my boyfriend prepared, or I'm eating a dinner in every county in the state this month.
    – choster
    Jan 12, 2016 at 21:16
  • 1
    Probably what you're getting at is that constructions I like cake, Give me beer, Don't skip breakfast involve words that are/can be mass / count nouns Jan 12, 2016 at 21:16
  • You might want to wait a day or two before accepting an answer. You're question's quite on topic. You may get some better developed or more interesting ones. But people might not bother to write you another answer for your question if you've already accepted one! (thanks though). I won't mind you deselecting my answer : ) Jan 12, 2016 at 22:16
  • ok i'll wait. sorry, i'm not used to this sub. Jan 12, 2016 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


In syntax they're known as bare noun phrases, often referred to as bare NPs. They are the subject of much academic research. Especially interesting are those instances where the noun phrase is singular. There are important subcategories of bare noun phrase, such as bare role NPs. We find these in sentences such as Who'll be maid of honour?.

  • 2
    The null determiner is 'the'. If you ate 'a' dinner, it might be leftovers, but 'the' dinner is the one you expect to eat at the normal time (unless you had just mentioned some other dinner). Because it is obvious, 'the' can be omitted. This even applies to proper nouns. A Tom is someone named Tom, but [the] Tom is the Tom that you and I both know.
    – AmI
    Jan 12, 2016 at 23:31
  • @AmI Interesting. How owuld that work with the universe? I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm wondering if there's some other factors at play too. What d'you think? Jan 12, 2016 at 23:40
  • You're right. Familiarity has much to do with it. '[our] Mother went [to our] home to watch [our] TV before [our] bedtime.
    – AmI
    Feb 10, 2016 at 17:57

A prefix is a term of word formation as trans- in to translate or translation. The articles (a, an, the) are no prefixes. Grammar can give only basic and general information as the use or drop of articles is a dictionary problem with thousands of registrations. It needs long experience to get a feeling for the use of articles.It's not a matter of some rules and lists.

You can say "nouns that aren't preceded by an article" if you want Latin verbs or simply "nouns without article".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.