countable nouns that take no article in the singular

What I want to ask you for today is to cite at least a few nouns that take no article but due to their nature few people who are in the course of learning English actually realize they should put no article before them. You now, like “society.” I have also seen many instances of no-‘articling’ such nouns as “civilization,” “culture,” or “theory.”

I do have, however, another question concerning this. Two, frankly speaking.

  1. So, if I am not to put articles before the abovementioned nouns, does it mean I must not do so under any circumstances? I mean, “US society” is clearly OK, but would “the US society” be automatically wrong?

  2. Of course, it changes when we omit the adjective. In which case, thus, “US society” would turn into “the society of the US.” Same thing here: is the here really indispensable?

Your subject line is “countable nouns that take no article in the singular”, but what you actually seem to be talking about here are nouns that can be either countable or uncountable. There are many such nouns in English, of which “society”, “civilisation”, “culture” and “theory” are all examples. When they are behaving as (singular) countable they need an article (either definite or indefinite) or some other determiner. When they are uncountable they may take no article, or they may take the definite article, depending on the degree of specificity, and on overall contextual and idiomatic considerations.

In “US society” (no article), “society” is uncountable and means “society as a whole”. In “the US society”, “society” can be either uncountable (in the same sense) or countable (typically in the sense of a particular group or organisation).

OK, so “the US society” (meaning a nation, not an organization) is not actually wrong? Does the same go for the other nouns (culture, theory, etc.)?

And also, can you name some other nouns of the sort?

“the US society” meaning “US society as a whole” is not wrong, and you will see it used. Personally, though, I would normally prefer to omit the article in this case. The same applies to “the US culture”, when it means “the general culture of the US”. It is less common to use “the theory” in a sense in which “theory” could be considered uncountable, but I think it is not impossible. Sometimes these usages with “the” can fall into a grey area where it is not completely clear whether a noun is being used in a countable or uncountable sense. Unless you are particularly interested in very detailed study of grammar and structure, you do not need to worry about this.

There are many, many nouns that can be both countable and uncountable. Some more random examples: “ability”, “anxiety”, “belief”, “crime”, “defeat”, “friendship”, “liberty”, “reality”, “success”, “worry”.

Here in the Bible belt we hear about the theory of evolution quite a bit.

Luschen, do you think that “theory” is uncountable in that case?

What do you mean? I think you could argue that there are more than one theory of evolution - “phenotype-first theory of evolution”, “punctuated theory of evolution”, etc; and there are more than one type of theory, so I think theory is often countable, in theory. :wink:

For example, in the sentence “Theory is different from practice”, the word “theory” is uncountable. In the sentence “I have a theory about that”, the word “theory” is countable. Of course, it is common for the definite article to be used with “theory”, but I could not easily think of a case of “the theory” where “theory” is unambiguously uncountable. I thought you were replying to that point, so I thought you were implying that you thought “theory” in “the theory of evolution” was uncountable.

Oh no, I am sorry I was unclear. Actually, I was mainly making a joke. Our state just passed a law making sure that teachers stress that evolution is just a theory and therefore probably wrong. They are also free to give any alternate theories they learned in school, or at church, or in a fairy tale book.