Do we have a mass noun equivalent like 'music' but for 'movies'? If not, what nature of the meaning of 'music' makes it a mass noun as opposed to countable nouns like 'movies'? I was wondering why something that is so close in meaning has two different types of conceptualization in our lexicon.

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    I think the word 'cinema' refers to theatres here more than to the aspect of moving pictures I was aiming at. I was wondering why something that is so close in meaning has two different types of conceptualization in our lexicon.
    – Tangent
    May 24, 2021 at 13:52
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    I think that the word 'music' is wider in scope than 'cinema' because cinema (or at least fictional cinema) is a part of 'drama' so 'drama' is the equivalent mass noun to 'music'. Referring to 'cinema' or 'the movies' as an art form is more akin to talking about 'opera' which is a subset of 'music' as 'cinema' is a part of 'drama'.
    – BoldBen
    May 24, 2021 at 14:05
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    As to the question of why there is a difference: movies are typically sold/presented as singular things, either as tickets, on DVD, or pay-per-view, or TV listings, while music is sold in numerous discrete forms such as the single/song/track, album/LP/CD, MP3, download, concert, program/bill, sheet music, and forms such as symphony, quartet, opera, concerto, etc. Hence having a simple, generally-applicable, pluralizable word for a unit of any kind of music doesn't make sense - what specifically would it refer to?
    – Stuart F
    May 24, 2021 at 15:11
  • @StuartF, There's "a song", which causes trouble if you're talking about an instrumental work. So we end up talking about "tracks" (if the music is recorded), or "pieces" or "works" (mostly for orchestral works), etc. It's actually pretty inconvenient in certain circumstances that we don't have a single word for a work of music that works for both lyrical and instrumental works and across all styles (pop, jazz, orchestral, ...) of music.
    – The Photon
    May 25, 2021 at 0:05
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    I think if you talk to music lovers you will not find much support for your belief that music and film are close in meaning. May 25, 2021 at 3:23

2 Answers 2


There are metonyms like '[the] cinema', 'the silver screen', which are often used in non-count usages.

From BBC Bitesize:

  • American culture and society underwent a period of great change between 1910 and 1929 due to the popularity of the cinema, silent films, talkies and the impact of jazz music.

Obviously, this is not an exact synonym for 'films/movies', as one wouldn't use it for one's home collection of DVDs (I can prove they still exist).

One can use the plural-form films (and movies) in non-count ways:

  • 'Watching films is my favourite leisure activity.'
  • *'Watching three/several/21 films is my favourite leisure activity.'
  • 'I'd love to appear in films.'
  • [New York] is also home to some of the world’s finest hotels, and it is no surprise that some of them have made it onto the silver screen. Here is a list of some Oyster.com favorites that have appeared in the movies....


Both 'She never did appear in films' and 'She never did appear in the movies' display non-count but plural-form usages. Interestingly, one always uses the null article, and the other in this usage the definite article. Compare 'She never did appear on television'. 'She never did appear in more than those two early films' has moved to a count usage.


Two common mass nouns are "film" and "cinema" as mentioned above. "Hollywood" has been used but of late, it tends to be used restrictively to indicate the character of American film. A bit further off is the term "the silver screen" or "celluloid" but these seem to be becoming uncommon.

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    Hollywood is even losing its grip on describing American film due to the rise and success of indie film which is not based in Hollywood. May 25, 2021 at 3:21
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    film, no 's'.... +1
    – Mazura
    May 25, 2021 at 4:19
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    >2. a motion picture; a movie. [...] movies considered as an art or industry. "a critical overview of feminist writing on film"
    – Mazura
    May 25, 2021 at 4:23
  • @Mazura 'I always wanted to appear in films' shows a plural-form non-count usage and is totally idiomatic. Plural-form non-count usages are fairly rare, but not unknown. Clothes is a prime example. May 25, 2021 at 11:55

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