Top 5 Mass Noun Mistakes

Never baggages

Never baggages

If I was asked what one of the most commonly occurring mistakes I see in translations is, my answer would be the attempt to pluralize uncountable (mass) nouns.

Uncountable nouns:

  • Are seen as a mass and cannot be counted or separated (i.e., bread)
  • Are not used with indefinite articles a / an
  • Can be used with much / little / some / any (e.g., “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing“)

Mistakes are understandable given that what is uncountable in one language may be countable in another, e.g., news in English is uncountable, yet in Turkish, haber (news) can be pluralized as haberler.

Despite this, I am often surprised by how many professionals (with an otherwise fantastic grasp of English) make the same mistakes. These mistakes seem to be self-perpetuating, as colleagues pick these up, resulting in basic errors being included in corporate communications.

With this in mind, I’ve created a list of the most commonly pluralized uncountable nouns.

Training

“I have to undertake trainings next week.” WRONG
“I have to undertake training next week.”CORRECT

(This could be either multiple training sessions or just a general reference. It’s very common to see this used as a general reference.)

Baggage/Luggage

“On arriving at the airport we checked in our baggages.” WRONG
“On arriving at the airport we checked in our baggage.”CORRECT

Research

“Researches were carried out on a range of topics.” WRONG
“Research was carried out on a range of topics.”CORRECT

Equipment

“All the necessary equipments were loaded onto the truck.” WRONG
“All the necessary equipment was loaded onto the truck.”CORRECT

Legislation

“Since coming to power the government has introduced legislations to address tax avoidance.” WRONG
“Since coming to power the government has introduced legislation to address tax avoidance.”CORRECT

Which common mistakes have you spotted?

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