Is "refund" always a count noun?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JungKim, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    I heard someone claim that "refund" used as a noun is always countable.
    Which I doubted on the spot, later consulting several dictionaries.
    Apparently, some dictionaries marked it a count noun; some didn't mark it at all.
    No dictionary that I looked it up in says it can be a non-count noun.

    Could anyone think of a context in which the word is used as a non-count noun?
     
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    No. To me, it's as the "someone" claimed: 'always countable'.
     
  3. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Many people buy gifts and then give them to people who do not want them. As a result, all the big shops play a game of sale and refund over the Christmas and New Year period.
     
  4. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Thanks.
    Then why do you think no dictionary shows that it can be a non-count noun??
     
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    I can't think of a non-count use of it. Beware of using situations that don't actually test for this, such as 'any':

    Do I get any refund? - Yes, you get :tick:a / :cross:some refund.
     
  6. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    I think that all nouns can in some contexts be countable, and all nouns can in some contexts be uncountable. But it would not be helpful to have a note to that effect against each and every noun in the dictionary. The dictionary aims to guide learners on the usual usage of the noun.
     
  7. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, it's almost always countable.

    But you might encounter a use like: '(There will be) No refund for purchases below £10'. The plural form also works here: '(There will be) No refunds for purchases below £10.' The first example sounds like a non-count use of refund​ to me.
     
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I would say it's always countable, and I think teddy's "sale or refund" example could apply to other countable nouns too.

    JungKim, you started this thread with
    Perhaps you could tell us why you doubted it "on the spot"?
     
  9. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    I respectfully disagree.

    Some nouns can never be countable and some uncountable in any context.

    The former includes "information", "equipment", "furniture", "jewelry", etc; the latter "tip" (meaning a piece of information), "piece", "table", "jewel", etc.

    But other than those, most nouns can act as both count and non-count depending on the context, in which case dictionaries almost always show the comprehensive usage, not just the usual usage.

    I guess what I'm saying is that those exclusively count or non-count nouns (as listed above) should be and actually are marked as such in dictionaries. Then words like "refund" should be treated differently in the dictionary to avoid potential confusion.
     
  10. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    I doubted the claim because I thought "refund" could mean some concept of repayment as well as a repaid sum of money. This is not so with such nouns as "tip", "piece", etc.
     
  11. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I basically agree with teddy. It's really the meaning of words that determines their (un)countability - and vice-versa (if an uncountable word gets used in a countable situation, that changes its meaning). I don't think countability is really a fixed property of certain words; to me it follows from semantics, patterns of use, and context.

    In this case:
    That's not really one of the meanings of "refund." (Except perhaps in the example natkretep gives in post #7.) "Refunds" could mean "the concept of repayment"; so could "refunding." It would be much harder to find a situation where "refunding" could be a count noun! (Well, unless "refunding" might mean "an act of refunding," in which case...)
     
  12. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    I agree with your general statement insofar as it is applied to most nouns but not all. As I mentioned above, countability is really a fixed property of some nouns such as "information" and "furniture" on the one hand and "tip" and "piece" on the other.

    And I thought that "refund" belongs to your general statement.

    But maybe I was wrong about that, if you're right in your claim:
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  13. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    But that's only based on what the meaning of those nouns might be in any given period and in any particular context. In the past, for instance, it was entirely possible to count "furnitures," back when "furniture" could also mean "the set of furnishings associated with a particular house/person/hawk/etc." (But I don't want to go off-topic.)

    So what you should ask is whether there's a meaning of "refund" that could be non-count. Since "refund" doesn't have the meaning of "the concept of refunding money to customers," it's hard to make "refund" non-count.

    However... it's entirely possible that the word will change its use - and its meaning with it - and "refund" will be non-count sometime in the future. Maybe it is already, in the context given by natkretep.
     
  14. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Are you sure that "refund" in your first example is a non-count noun?

    I'm asking this because even singular count nouns can have "no" as its determiner:
    (1) No teacher accepts the usage.
    (2) I'm no expert in English.
    (3) But I'm no fool either.
    (4) This is no simple matter.

    So how would you distinguish a singular count noun from a non-count noun followed by "no"?
     
  15. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    How about the example provided by se16teddy in post #3 and I quote: "Many people buy gifts and then give them to people who do not want them. As a result, all the big shops play a game of sale and refund over the Christmas and New Year period."

    Don't you think it's an example that shows a meaning of "refund" as a non-count noun?

     
  16. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Hm. That's hard to say. Do you think that "cat and mouse" are non-count in "a game of cat and mouse"?
     
  17. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    How about this example from this web site?
    "I believe we received about $1.80 in refund for the $500 or so we spent for a particular domain in the process."

    Sounds like "refund" there is used as a concept rather than a sum.
     
  18. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Look, I think your question has been answered: if the situation warrants it, and if it builds upon a conceivable and communicable meaning of the word, "refund" can be non-count. "Refund" can be count or non-count, depending on what meaning it takes, the way in which it's used, and the particular context/structure in which it's used...

    In this way "refund" is like, well, most every noun in the English language.

    (In other words, when a dictionary - or a person - says that a word is always count or non-count, they're making a handy generalization about a particular point in time and in the history of the development of the language. It's never going to be a universal and atemporal rule.)
     
  19. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Yes - games like soccer, Monopoly, cribbage and cat and mouse are normally uncountable.
     
  20. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    I'm not sure that I find these supposed counter examples particularly convincing.

    Arguments based on the names of games are surely a red herring.
    The games themselves may well be uncountable, but that does not of necessity confer "uncountability" (or otherwise) upon the components of their names.
    Nor do those components always turn up as invariant singulars, eg. a game of 'snakes and ladders' ('chutes and ladders'); 'cowboys and Indians'; 'cops and robbers'; 'draughts' ('checkers'); 'fox and geese'.

    What's the game we play here? Let's call it Q&A. Are its subcomponents plural or singular? For me it could be either so long as I presume that the 'Q' and the 'A' stand for what we might expect them to, because both 'question' and 'answer' are countable.

    However, if the 'A' stood instead for 'advice', a properly uncountable noun, it would be a very different story.

    I think that the same is true of the 'game of sale and refund'. It could easily have been 'a game of sales and refunds' without jarring anyone.

    Similarly "'(There will be) No refund for purchases below £10'. The plural form also works here: '(There will be) No refunds for purchases below £10.'."

    The fact that the plural also works here demonstrates that 'refund' is countable. You could not do that with, say, 'information'.


    I think a rule of thumb is 'can I sensibly put "a bit of" in front of it?'. If the answer is yes, then it can be uncountable. If the answer is no, then it's always countable.

    I'd like a bit of peace :tick:
    I'd like a bit of information :tick:
    I'd like a bit of advice :tick:
    I'd like a bit of compensation :tick:

    I'd like a bit of refund??? I might say this as a joke, but I don't think that I would ever wish to write it. Others may feel differently.
     
  21. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I just wanted to give a "hear, hear" to Beryl's post above, and to say that I like her 'rule of thumb'.

    I also wanted to say to JungKim that, just because you may occasionally come across a word without a determiner, that doesn't make the word uncountable. We say "I'm going to bed now" - but that doesn't make "bed" an uncountable noun:).
     
  22. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Are you comfortable with "I'd like a bit of repayment"?
     
  23. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Well, some might say that "bed" in your example is indeed a non-count noun.
    See the non-count usages in 1 a.
     
  24. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    No, I'm not comfortable with "I'd like a bit of repayment", JungKim. :)
     
  25. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    That's because "repayment" in your example is generally countable.
    But that does not mean it doesn't have its uncountable usage in other contexts, as shown in here.
     
  26. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    I'm not sure what you mean by my example there - I gave no examples that used 'repayment'.

    I'd be comfortable with "I'd like some repayment".

    The reason I didn't give 'some' as part that 'rule of thumb' is that 'some' has so many meanings that aren't 'a bit of', but maybe I should have foreseen that there'd be trouble.

    When Churchill said "Some chicken; some neck.", he didn't mean "A bit of chicken; a bit of neck.".

    I'd like some bread = I'd like a bit of bread.
    I'd like some milk = I'd like a bit of milk.
     
  27. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    It matters not whether you use "some" or "a bit of" in your rule of thumb.

    What I'm trying to say is that the context of your rule of thumb examples does not necessarily encompass an important potential context in which the word of interest may be treated as a non-count noun.

    So, regardless of whether you feel comfortable with "I'd like some repayment" and/or "I'd like a bit of repayment", "repayment" can be used as a non-count noun as in "The loan is due for repayment by the end of the year." or "Council has a policy of modest debt repayment".
     
  28. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    I'm not going to spend much time defending something I'd described as a rule of thumb, but I will briefly make three points in response:

    1. I said nothing about the countability or otherwise of 'repayment'.
    2. The rule of thumb does correctly predict an uncountable use of 'repayment'. (If the answer is yes, then it can be uncountable.)
    3. The rule is really only of any use to a native speaker.
     
  29. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    First of all, I'm here to pursue the true nature of the language and I'm not here to attack your rule, so there's no need to defend it. :)

    All I'm saying is that, presented as a "rule", the rule of thumb should be applicable to any other noun, including but not limited to "repayment".

    The rule, as you claim, may be beyond non-natives like myself. But then, if so, the rule is of no use, because natives will never need such a rule in the first place.
     

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