2

Example:

Some people like to do this using a dedicated diagramming software, like Microsoft Visio.

A friend of mine, who is a native English speaker, says that this sentence doesn't sound weird to him at all. But isn't it true that the word software is inherently a mass noun, so no articles are possbile or is he right that software can be used as a count noun to mean something like program and application? I actually have never seen software used as a count noun like that. I always thought that this word was a mass noun and could not be anything else. What do you guys think?

  • 6
    Whenever you encounter references to a software, you can be pretty certain the speaker/writer is German. Virtually no native speakers would ever do it, but this was covered on ELU long before ELL even existed. – FumbleFingers Mar 27 '15 at 16:23
  • 1
    To my American ears, "a software" sounds weird, but "a dedicated diagramming software" or "a piece of software" both sound perfectly fine. I think software is generally a mass noun, but if you are talking about a specific type or piece of software, rather than software in general, that changes things. – Keiki Mar 27 '15 at 16:43
  • 1
    "a. . . software" - please, no. Just no. It's like nails down a blackboard. It's always a mass noun. – peterG Mar 31 '15 at 1:19
3

My experience has always been that software is an uncountable or mass noun.

I would phrase your sentence as Some people like to do this using dedicated diagramming software.

The usual "unit of measurement" for software is piece. I need a piece of software for diagramming means I need a diagramming application. This seems to be by analogy with silverware and other similar words.

  • In general, I agree but I think that the "a" can be use in this case because, with the modification of the type of software, piece can be implied. – Catija Mar 27 '15 at 17:08
  • 1
    @Catija I think in this case it might have just been an editing fumble. The clause might have started out in the author's mind as "a dedicated diagramming program" and "program" got changed to "software" by the time the words hit the page because software sounds better and is less ambiguous. I would never say "a dedicated diagramming software" unless I was trying to edit myself as I was saying something off-the-cuff. – ColleenV Mar 27 '15 at 17:56
  • That's completely possible... And I'm now irked by my lost d at the end of use. Grrrr. – Catija Mar 27 '15 at 17:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.