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Making Sense of Grammar
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Why sometimes some noun is not preceded by a determiner and when it can be used?

Group: CA1-22
asked Nov 22, 2022 in Questions about English Grammar by rubu0928 (180 points) | 242 views

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Bare noun is a noun that lack an article or determiner. Bare plurals and bare singulars are the major varieties of the bare nominals if we exclude the proper noun.

For the bare plurals, the noun should be countable noun and plural marker is needed after the noun to show plurality. It can be used for the generic reading and existential reading. Considering the follow examples:

1. Humans are mammals.

2. Dogs barked.

In example (1), “humans” is the bare plural noun to give a generic reading. It is used to make generalization that the nouns refer to the whole group of a class, but not a specific one. There is no exception to the fact that humans are mammals, and it is common knowledge to everyone. Therefore, “humans” in (1) is generic object represents all human in species. In example (2), “dogs” is also the bare plural but give the existential reading to the sentence. We know dogs usually bark but at the same time we know it is not true that all dogs bark. So, the “dogs” here give the existential reading that there is referring dogs barked.

For the bare singulars, it is the countable noun lack of determiner or article and appears in constricted construction. The followings are the example of bare singulars.

3. Mary is in park.
4. Hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder and milk.

5. Peter is playing basketball.
6. She found door after door closed.

For (3), “park” is the bare location that where Mary it. Similarly, we can use bare noun to show the location like: “in hospital, at home, on television”. For (4), bare singulars “cocoa powder” and “milk” are used in bare coordination. Bare noun is often used in coordinating conjunction “and” / “or”, instead of putting determiner before the noun. For (5), it gives the example of bare incorporation. The bare noun “basketball” is incorporated with the verb “play” so the determiner can be omitted here. For (6), it is not commonly used in English but bare noun also can be occurred in bare reduplication.

When we are learning English, we are taught to put determiners or article before nouns. It is commonly to see many English learner put too much “a” and “the” before nouns. However, bare noun without a determiner or an article is allowed in English. We can use bare plurals in generic and existential sentences to show the generic object and existed object. For the singular plurals, they can appear in location, coordination, incorporation and reduplication.

References:

1. Henriëtte, S., Joost, Z. Less form – more meaning: Why bare singular nouns are special. Lingua, 2009, Vol.119(2).
2. 馬永娜. The Semantic Comparison between Bare Noun Phrases in
English and Chinese. 海外英語, 2018, Vol.11.
answered Nov 22, 2022 by rubu0928 (180 points)

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