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In Longman's Common Mistakes in English Grammar Practice, 6th Ed. by T.J. Fitikides (2002), at #251 the author recommends using make a noise instead of make noise. The example sentences go like this:

Don't say: I told them not to make noise.
Say: I told them not to make a noise.

My questions:

As it's a negative sentence, why not use any instead of a, i.e. I told them not to make any noise(s). Is it wrong to say to a couple of noisy students in the hallway for example, Don't make any noise(s)?

I've looked up the word noise and it's both count and non-count properties In the context that I made above which one is correct or more common:

Don't make any noise.
Don't make any noises.
Don't make a noise.
Don't make noises.

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    Related question The use of any with plural/singular words. – user24743 Mar 7 '16 at 18:14
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    Both noise and sound can be used as countable or uncountable nouns. When using negated forms to tell someone to be silent, the most common "uncountable" version is [I don't want to hear] any noise (i.e. - any is usually included, but idiomatically it doesn't pair well with noise). For the "countable" version we usually use the singular, but note that Don't make a noise means Don't be loud and noisy, but Don't make a sound means Be completely silent. – FumbleFingers Mar 7 '16 at 18:16
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    @Azad My pleasure. This community has more than 67,000 questions asked over the past 6 years. Please try to search the key word(s) before asking a question. It will help you ask a more specific question about what bothers you most. Good luck. – user24743 Mar 7 '16 at 18:30
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    Using any is not absolutely necessary in a negative sentence. It just emphasizes the sentence meaning "no matter how much or how many". If you contrast "I don't have a choice" with "I don't have any choice", the latter emphasizes the fact (not having a choice) more. – user24743 Mar 7 '16 at 18:51
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    I would not say "I told them not to make a noise". Instead I would say "I told them not to make any noise" or "I told them not to make a sound". The former means that you want people to keep the noise at reasonable level, the latter means that you want people to be completely quite. – Baz Mar 7 '16 at 19:21
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To answer your questions (not necessarily in order), noise is generally more common than noises.

Noises connotes, to me, specific different types of noise considered together:

I loved the night noises in St. Vincent.

Here, it includes the roosters that weren't necessarily quiet until the dawn, the distant barking dogs, the insects and other night creatures.

Noise (a sound of any kind) in general can be singular or plural in kind, and when the difference between the different kinds doesn't matter, noise is often used.

The noise from the street was making conversation impossible.
Once I moved in, I found that, though I was on the ninth floor, the noise from the street traffic and a subway made it impossible to sleep or work.

In your example:

I told them not to make a noise.

"Don't make any noise" is very common; equally valid but less common is "I told them not to make a noise." Both are a little more emphatic than "don't make noise". It is similar to "Don't make a sound" - a very emphatic imperative. It would be much less common to say noises here, though clearly it wouldn't be wrong.

Idiomatically, noise is more common in speech than noises. Unless you want to call attention to the different noises (e.g. "the noises coming from that party were really interesting"), it will sound more natural to use noise.

  • Half of the Original Poster's question is about any before noise(s) and your post is not mentioning anything about it. – user24743 Mar 7 '16 at 18:03
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    @Rathony - Patience is a virtue. Also, remember you can provide an answer as well. – anongoodnurse Mar 7 '16 at 18:07

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