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?

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    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 '16 at 21:16
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    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 – FumbleFingers Jan 12 '16 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 : ) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jan 12 '16 at 22:16
  • ok i'll wait. sorry, i'm not used to this sub. – Jeremy Fisher Jan 12 '16 at 22:42

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?.

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    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 '16 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? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jan 12 '16 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 '16 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".

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