material/s

quietdandelion

Banned
Formosa/Chinese
The prices of building material/s have gone up recently.
The writer is collecting material/s for the new book.


Material/s is both countable and uncountable, but how should I know when it's used as a countable and uncountable noun? Thanks.
 
  • WongFeiHung

    Senior Member
    USA English
    The first one I'd say, "materials" and the second I'd say "material".
    I think the difference here is that in the first one, it's 'prices of building [materials] in general, which is uncountable.
    The second: the writer has an idea of what kind of material he is collecting and looking for, and is not just picking up anything he can find. So this would be countable.
    What were you thinking it would be?
     

    WongFeiHung

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I guess for the second it could be either, depending on how you interpret the action - if he's in the beginning process and just getting whatever to get started, then materials. If he already has an idea and is looking for specific stuff, then I'd use material
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    In my understanding, building materials contain lots of different kind of stuff, so it should be plural.

    As for the second one, the material that the writer is collecting can be either lots of different sources and books and papers, or it can be some thoughts or feelings on his mind, so I think both are possible choices.


    The prices of building material/s have gone up recently.
    The writer is collecting material/s for the new book.


    Material/s is both countable and uncountable, but how should I know when it's used as a countable and uncountable noun? Thanks.

     

    quietdandelion

    Banned
    Formosa/Chinese
    Thanks, my friends, for your reasonable comments.
    But I still have some doubts: Genetic material/s store/s genetic information for a human being or other living organism.

    Which form should I use here? Thanks.

    I happen to run across this one: Students may pick three books from a list of fifty as their outside reading material/s.
     

    WongFeiHung

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I'd say (if I had to) "Genetic material stores genetic information for a human being or other living organism"
    BUT - as you probably could tell, it's a little redundant. So I'd recommend saying, "DNA stores genetic material..."
    I'm sorry if I can't come up with a solid explanation, I'll try to look for something that explains the differences of countable and noncountable nouns for you better than me!
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Thanks, my friends, for your reasonable comments.
    But I still have some doubts: Genetic material/s store/s genetic information for a human being or other living organism.

    Which form should I use here? Thanks.
    I think you're really getting into a problem here, QD, if only because of the use of the word "material" with "genetic". I've not heard the term "genetic material/s" used and wouldn't know what you were trying to convey whether you made it countable or not. "Material" just isn't the right word in this context.

    As far as your original examples go, I don't think that there's any magic to the answer. One collects "material" for a book and one gathers building "materials" when doing construction. I'm really not sure that there's an answer - except memorize, memorize, memorize.:)
     

    quietdandelion

    Banned
    Formosa/Chinese
    Thanks, FH.

    I happen to run across this one: Students may pick three books from a list of fifty as their outside reading material/s.

    What about this one?
    I'm not testing you; I just want to get the real hang of it. Sorry!
     

    WongFeiHung

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Sorry!
    I will here none of it!

    Student's may pick three books from a list of fifty as their outside reading material

    On second thought, there might be some discrepency as to my explanation of your first example about the building material. I'm afraid I can't offer you a clear explanation! Here, take a look at those links I gave, hopefully they'll be good
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Thanks, FH.

    I happen to run across this one: Students may pick three books from a list of fifty as their outside reading material/s.

    What about this one?
    I'm not testing you; I just want to get the real hang of it. Sorry!
    I would go with "material" for this one because of the singular "reading". There is only one type of "material" involved in this sentence. The fact that three books are to be read doesn't change the fact that the books are the "material" which the students must have. If I go into a room filled with 50 books and choose three of them, I'm unlikely to say "I've chosen my reading materials"
     

    WongFeiHung

    Senior Member
    USA English
    By the way, QD - it's great you are asking these difficult questions, but you might be bordering the realm of pointlessness here because the minutiae of the meanings are very frivolous, and the responses could vary from person person - you know?
    ... Maybe that's just to say that I'm not good at explaining this!
     

    quietdandelion

    Banned
    Formosa/Chinese
    Thanks, FH.
    I know sometimes my questions are bordering the realm of pointlessnes, but that is my job--to answer all kinds of sometimes-even-whimsical questions from every student.
     
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