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The word "merit" seems to be used as both countable and uncountable, in both single and plural forms:

  • "there is no much merit" — 23k results
  • "the claim has no merit" — 57k results
  • "the claim has no merits" — 3k results
  • "there is a merit in" — 382k results
  • "there are no merits in" — 27k results

Is there any subtle distinction? Say, when someone asserts that someone's claim (more specifically, a court motion) is baseless, which form of "merit" — countable or uncountable — is more appropriate?

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    In the UK I think we mostly use the uncountable "the motion has no merit" or "there is no merit in the motion," though merits is also heard, especially when something is "[judged] on its merits" or when exam results are mentioned: "six merits and two distinctions." "There is no much merit" is surely a typo: it should be "there is not much merit." "There is a merit in..." sounds somewhat old-fashioned or vicarly. Jan 2 at 3:52
  • @OldBrixtonian Mind posting as an answer? How about "there is no merit"? Is it not correct? If correct, why would the addition of "much" make it incorrect?
    – Greendrake
    Jan 2 at 4:31
  • OK. Reposted as an answer. I had already talked about "there is no merit". I've now explained why I thought it was a typing error. Jan 2 at 5:06
  • Google search results are not a very good indicator of whether a phrase is correct or common, due to quirks of how Google indexes things, the large number of non-native speakers on the Internet, and other factors. You might find it more useful to use Google Books or Google Books Ngram Viewer.
    – stangdon
    Jan 2 at 14:23
  • Also, don't forget that any mass noun can be used with the indefinite article if you mean "a specific type of X", like "They used a flour made from corn husks" or "The floor was covered with a fine gray dust" although this is an unusual usage.
    – stangdon
    Jan 2 at 14:27

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In the UK I think we mostly use the uncountable "the motion has no merit" or "there is no merit in the motion," though merits is also heard, especially when something is "[judged] on its merits" or when exam results are mentioned: "six merits and two distinctions."

"There is no much merit" looks like a mistyped "there is not much merit." We never say "no much". "Not much" is extremely common and useful. It means "only a little." "Not much whisky" means "only a little whisky."

"There is a merit in..." sounds somewhat old-fashioned or vicarly.

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