Countable (Singular/Plural) or Uncountable?

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Soseki Lover

Member
Japanese
I'm a Japanese learner of English.

Here is my question:

Which of the three sentences below is most appropriate in an instruction manual? (or are all the three okay?)

(1) Not doing so could result in injury, electric shock, short circuit, burn, fire, or damage to the instrument.
(2) Not doing so could result in injuries, electric shocks, short circuits, burns, fires, or damages to the instrument.
(3) Not doing so could result in an injury, electric shock, short circuit, burn, fire, or damage to the instrument.

* In (1), each noun is used as an uncountable noun.
* In (2), each noun is used as a countable noun in plural form.
* In (3), each noun is used as a countable noun in singular form.

Dictionaries indicate both "C" (countable) and "U" (uncountable) for these terms, which makes it hard for me to use them correctly.

I would appreciate it if you could answer this question.:)
 
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  • MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    Use 1. only.

    In (3), that would be using each as a specific instance of harm by that means e.g. an ankle injury. But we can also use the word to mean (for example) the fact of being injured; harmed or damaged : "He escaped without serious injury."

    As for (2), crikey - how many electric shocks, or fires, can this instrument cause at one individual use. Surely, after one use and receiving an electric shock, the person would have it repaired, so there was no repeat of that!
     
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    Soseki Lover

    Member
    Japanese
    >MilkyBarKid
    -san

    Thank you for your explanation!
    It's a great help.

    Comment 1
    Actually, in an instruction manual I was working on the other day,
    a native speaker of English corrected
    "Not doing so could result in injury or electric shock"
    to
    "Not doing so could result in injuries or electric shocks."

    Now I'm not sure why he made this correction.
    (I'm a bit shocked to read your explanation because the finished manual has already been sent to a client of mine...:eek:)

    Comment 2
    I still cannot understand why sentence (3) should not be used.

    Even after reading your explanation, both of the following sentences, for example, seem okay to me.
    1. Not doing so could result in a fire. (a specific instance)
    2. Not doing so could result in fire. (fact, as you would say)

    Comment 3
    Another question is that "electric shock" and "short circuit" are registered only as countable nouns in Longman Dictionary. Can zero article be used with countable nouns?

    Thank you in advance.:)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The uncountable form implies a generality;
    1. injury(UC) = injury in general terms - any sort of injury
    2. injuries (C) = numerous injuries
    3. an injury (C) = a certain, but unspecified, type of injury
    4. the injury (C) = a specific injury
     
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