"Free education and health care are among the other impetus". Here the subject is plural, and I want to use it with impetus. However, impetus is uncountable. What is the correct form of that sentence?

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    Surely, those two things do not in themselves constitute impetus. Free education and health care are among the benefits. Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 18:41
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    'Among' cannot normally be used with a non-count usage. Among the hills / trees / daisies / dark old houses / cushions / possibilities / other considerations / .... BUT *Among the countryside / fog / milk / atmosphere / brilliance. Have you checked to see whether 'impetus' has a count usage? Wiktionary is usually braver than other dictionaries in showing countifications. Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 19:01
  • @EdwinAshworth I tend to agree, believing that it must be a count noun. This is supported by the fact that the OED carries several examples of its use with the indefinite article e.g. 1872 J. Yeats Growth Commerce 238 Fugitive Huguenots gave a fresh impetus to weaving. A non-count noun cannot take the indefinite, can it? Air, countryside and brilliance certainly can't, though fog, milk and atmosphere probably can. But unhelpfully, although the OED lists several different senses of impetus, it does not tell you what the plural is - and I have no idea.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 22:19
  • @EdwinAshworth The French is impulsion (f) but my Oxford Hachette also supplies no suggested plural. Though it would, in the French case, be easier to devise one - presumably impulsions.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 22:41
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    Recast. They encouraged; or they also provided impetus for . . .
    – Xanne
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 2:12

3 Answers 3


Impetus is countable. You can say "an impetus for ..." and have it sound perfectly reasonable. You can't do that for uncountable nouns, like "I'm looking for a furniture for my room" or "I just learned an interesting information."

There is a reason that you don't often see the plural. The Latin plural of impetus is impetus, like all fourth-declension Latin nouns ending with -us. This plural was used in English back when most educated English speakers knew Latin. We no longer use this plural (it was always quite rare), but we haven't replaced it with the regular impetuses, and impeti is just really, truly wrong. This means that impetus is in practice a singulare tantum — a singular noun that doesn't have any plural.

So what should you do? You could replace it with a synonym (maybe motivation). Or you could rephrase the sentence to use impetus in the singular, sort of like an uncountable noun:

Free education and healthcare are part of the impetus,
Free education and healthcare contribute to the impetus,

Or you could use impetuses as the plural, which seems to be licensed by at least two dictionaries: Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com.

  • Not a good test for countness. 'He took a pride in his appearance' is not seen as a count usage (*'He/They took 2/17/several/half a dozen prides in ...'). // Also, furnitures (eg Louis XIII, Louis XIV) is in use in the trade and by diffusion .... Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 15:35
  • @Edwin: so what is a test to distinguish between an uncountable noun and a singulare tantum? Pride certainly behaves very differently from impetus with respect to uncountability. See my next comment: Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 16:33
  • Ngram1 and Ngram2. Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 16:37
  • I'm with CGEL here (poor them) in that numeral-insertion is the only test (and corresponding to the only useful definition of countability). A blinding light filled the/every clearing. Non-count usage. // From telescoper: << Indeed, many non-count nouns exist only in the singular: such nouns are called singularia tantum. Examples include “dust” and “wealth”.>> //// Examples of 'two impetuses' do occur. Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 18:25
  • @EdwinAshworth: It seems that definitions vary. The Purdue OWL website (not untrustworthy for most grammatical matters) says that "uncountable nouns never take the indefinite article (a or an), but they do take singular verbs." Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 18:55

"Impetus" is usually used in the following structure

  • ___ gave Impetus to ____
  • ____ received Impetus from _____

So there aren't many ordinary cases where the plural "impetuses" is required

For example, "Free education and healthcare gave great impetus to the development of the nation"

Even "Free education and healthcare also gave new impetus" is correct provided context is supplied elsewhere

The way you've used it is rather clunky.


Remember that with the uncountable nouns it is a matter of using a quantifier: some, several, all; or a measure word: piece, bit, slice, bucket, dash, spoon, pound, etc.

Here maybe instances of the impetus will work?

  • Thanks, Can I say "Free education and health care are among the several impetus"?
    – Arash
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 19:02
  • "Several" is only used for countable nouns. Consider rephrasing the sentence
    – Arunkgp
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 19:15
  • I can only guess that maybe you want to make it more compact but here it will bring more vagueness than clarity. Free education and health care are among the other cases of the impetus — is this better?
    – Lux
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 19:36

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