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Taj Mahal is built using marbles

I heard that Material noun is always use in singular form

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    You're completely right that marble, like metal, for example, is an uncountable noun which denotes a material, and because it's an uncountable noun, it's followed by a verb in the singular. However, these nouns can also be used countably with the meaning "a type of material / substance". So a metal would be a type of metal. Similarly, if we have different types of marbles, we can refer to them as such. Taj Mahal was built using marbles probably means that Taj Mahal was built using different types of marbles.
    – user3395
    May 4, 2018 at 15:40
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    The example from tajmahal.org sounds funny to my (AmericanEnglish) ear. Because the toy ball meaning of "marbles" is so common, it still sounds like maybe the Taj Mahal was made from some combination of aggies, glassies, milkies, and shooters. I would pretty exclusively say "the Taj Mahal was built using different types of marble" if I wanted to avoid the impression that I meant this kind of construction
    – 1006a
    May 4, 2018 at 16:31
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    @user491253 - Thanks. That page contains many, many grammatical errors. I would not trust anything it says. People here can advise you on the proper use of mass nouns.
    – stangdon
    May 4, 2018 at 16:57
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    @userr2684291: Taj Mahal was built using marbles probably means the speaker/writer isn't a native Anglophone, since we always refer to it as the Taj Mahal. But putting that aside, pluralising marbles there is effectively "domain-specific jargon", only likely to be used by specialists such as stonemasons and mineralogists (if at all; I'm not one of those, so I don't know if they actually would use.it). And in my opinion, different types of marbles is simply invalid, in all contexts. May 4, 2018 at 17:53
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    @userr2684291: Google Books claims 18 written instances of He visited Taj Mahal, but I can only read the full context of one of them, and it's clearly written by a non-native speaker. And I've no reason to argue with the claimed 407 hits for He visited the Taj Mahal. The fact that nobody refers to the Buckingham Palace is irrelevant - it's about whether a usage is "idiomatic, established", not "grammatical". May 4, 2018 at 18:40

2 Answers 2

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The Taj Mahal is built of marble, which is indeed in singular form. Marbles are small glass balls used as toys and in games.

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  • The OED (2nd edition) contains this definition of marble: "A kind or variety of marble."
    – user3395
    May 4, 2018 at 16:11
  • While correct, I don't think this address the underlying question. The user isn't asking whether the Taj Mahal was built of marbles, but rather how to say it was built of various types of marble.
    – Andrew
    May 4, 2018 at 16:17
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By material nouns, you probably mean mass nouns which are nouns that are used to refer to things that generally cannot counted such as different substances like water, wood, milk etc. Well, that's not really true. Those things can be countable under certain circumstances. Specifically, when you are referring to different types or kinds of a particular substance. Wood, for example, can be used as a mass noun as well as a countable one. For instance:

Several woods have been used to construct electric guitar bodies over the decades.

Wood used to be one of the primary sources of energy for mankind for thousands of years.

When marble is used in its plural form, it means something slightly different from the type of stone used in architecture. Marbles are small balls children use play different games with. The reason they are called marbles is because they were originally made of marble:

marbles

But marble and marbles are not the same thing. That's why saying a building made of marbles does not make a lot of sense. Also, notice that you need a definite article in front of Taj Mahal. So, I would recommend rewriting your sentence like this:

The Taj Mahal was built using marble.

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    I've never heard 'milks' used like that. I wouldn't say it's a normal usage, at least not anywhere I've ever lived. I would say 'types of milk' or 'brands of milk'. I would agree with you regarding 'woods'. In the case of 'waters', as in 'North American waters' it is used to refer to countable geographical water features, rather than types of water.
    – dwilli
    May 4, 2018 at 15:41
  • Alright. If you don't like the example with milks, I'll switch back to the one with woods. May 4, 2018 at 15:56
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    Waters is plural and uncountable in the sense of North American waters; you cannot say (for example) *one international water, *two international waters, *three international waters. You can order two waters at a restaurant, though, so in that meaning it's plural and countable, though again it doesn't represent different kinds of water. Likewise, woods in I live near the woods doesn't refer to different kinds of wood, but in Several woods have been used to construct electric guitar bodies over the decades it does.
    – user230
    May 4, 2018 at 16:07
  • Thank you. That's a better example. I'll use that in my answer. May 4, 2018 at 16:08
  • @MichaelRybkin I meant no criticism. Just trying to help get the answer polished.
    – dwilli
    May 4, 2018 at 16:59

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