When should we use “the” with a non-count noun?
Water is a non-count noun. When we are speaking of water (or any non-count noun) in general, we do not use an article.
- Water covers most of the surface of the earth.
- The scientific notation for water is H20.
However, if we are identifying specific water (or any non-count noun), then we precede it with “the.”
- The water in this glass looks disgusting!
- I would never drink the water that he is holding!
Two common ways of making a noun specific are by following it with a prepositional phrase (“in this glass”) or with an adjective clause (“that he is holding”).
In the above examples, the non-count noun is something we can see or touch. Often, however, non-count nouns are emotions or ideas. When discussing abstract nouns, we follow the same article rules.
- Fear is a common emotion.
- We feel fear in many situations.
- I will never forget the fear on her face when she saw a spider in her bed.
- The fear that she showed was spectacular!
The word “patience” is another example of an abstract noun. It is a quality—something we cannot touch.
- Patience brings reward.
- We all must learn patience.
Now You Try! First write two general statements and then two specific statements for each of the suggested non-count nouns.
- Power allows you to make changes in the world.
- We all crave power.
- The power of the President is limited by the Legislature and the Judiciary.
- The power that political leaders wield can be used for good or ill.
- Chocolate is so delicious!
- I eat chocolate every day.
- The chocolate she brought came from Switzerland.
- Did you put the chocolate back in the cupboard?