Can you say:

"i want apples" or "can you give me apples?" without a "some" before the plural noun "apples"?

Because something like

"i want an apple" or "can you give me an apple" requires that "a" (or in this case "an") article, but do plurals need an article? and is that article just "some"?

Sorry if this seems really simple, but if what I suppose above is the case, then might the lack of an article tell you that a noun is plural?

3 Answers 3


"I want apples" and "I want some apples" are both valid.

"Some" isn't really an article. The indefinite article has no plural in English.

The determiner "some" may appear in some circumstances to function like the plural of "a", but it is not.

Lack of an article or determiner does not in itself allow the learner to deduce that a noun is plural. One can say "I want chocolate", "I want success"; these are mass nouns (uncountable, but treated as singular in many respects: they take singular verbs), although (like many mass nouns) they can also be used as countable nouns ("a chocolate", "a success").

In discussing "some", Quirk et al. (A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language) point out that whereas we say "She has become a vegetarian", we wouldn't say "They have become some vegetarians". We'd just say "They have become vegetarians".

Neither Quirk nor Huddleston & Pullum (The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language) class "some" as an article.

"Some" isn't always plural, either. "Some idiot did this" is a valid sentence referring to a singular idiot.


In fact, nowadays you tend to say "I want apples" rather than "I want some apples" (ngram), but both can be said. The same thing is true for "give me (some) apples" (ngram).

No, it doesn't, the number of a noun is to be determined from a dictionary.

  • People will tell you that the Earth is flat in those days.
  • Expansion of the conquest is not advised.

Do plural nouns need to have preceding articles in the same way singular nouns require “a”, “an” or “the”?

No. However, most countable nouns can be used as uncountable nouns and this adds some complication.

All singular countable nouns must be qualified by a determiner or "one" or a suitable quantifier.

A/an has the effect of "a single example of" on its noun. An Apple = A single example of an apple.

The plural of "an apple" is "apples".

The unqualified plural, "apples" = An indefinite number of examples of an apple.

If the "a/an, etc." is not added, then the singular countable noun becomes an uncountable noun. "This drink tastes of apple."

An uncountable noun describes the members of an homogeneous group, and as such are abstract, e.g. "advice" (uncountable) = "a member of the set of those things that contain wise and useful words" Uncountable nouns are not specific.

  1. "This drink tastes of apple." differs subtly from 2. "This drink tastes of apples."[1]

In 1. "of apple" is uncountable and means "of the flavour associated with apples in general."

In 2. "apples" = "similarly to the way in which an indefinite number of examples of a real apple might taste."

The distinction between "The apples" and "the apple" is simply one of numbers. "The" acts, in both cases, as a demonstrative pronoun that is similar to "that", but which qualifies its noun with the meaning "of which we are both aware" or "of which I have made, or will make you aware."

"The" can be used with uncountable nouns and singular and plural countable nouns.

[1] For most normal uses, this distinction is not important and native speakers use both indisciminately.

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