Material noun masterclass

This lesson helps us understand everything about a material noun in English. Read the post through to understand everything about material nouns.

material noun infographics

What is a material noun in English?

A material noun is one of the types of nouns in English. It refers to a name of a material something is made out of. In other words, it refers to a name of a material that is physical in nature. The material it refers to can be seen and weighted, but not counted. The material can’t be counted as we are not referring to the product or item; we are referring to its material (substance).

Material noun definition: A material noun is a name given to a material or substance that something is made out of. Some common material nouns are milk, iron, cotton, iron, salt, gold, plastic, etc.

Most material nouns usually come from nature (land, animals, plants, trees) but can also be man-made.

Material nouns from nature (Earth)
diamond, iron, silver, oil, gas, stone, sand, water, pebble, gold, copper, etc.
Material nouns from plants and trees
wood, fruit, vegetable, gum, rubber, leaves, grain, seed, cotton, jute, resin, etc.
Material nouns from animals
meat, milk, silk, egg, honey, leather, wool, honey, etc.
Man-made material nounsbrick, steel, paper, cheese, butter, curd, etc.

Examples of material nouns in a sentence

  1. We have got some extra milk in the fridge.
  2. You added a little extra sugar to the tea.
  3. The wood used in the furniture is not of good quality.
  4. I don’t like water in my coffee.
  5. Cement gives strength to the structure of walls. You should always use it in the right proportion.
  6. The process of extracting gold is very complicated and expensive.
  7. The iron used in the construction was top-notch.
  8. This dish is made without oil or butter. It is just made with water, rice, and vegetables.
  9. My mother is a huge fan of rice. She just can’t live without it.
  10. The Indian bread ‘Naan’ is made from flour.
  11. I love tomato in my red sauce pasta. (used as a substance, not as an object)
  12. Almost 15000 bricks were used to c

How do we identify material nouns in a sentence?

Turns out that identifying material nouns is not easy difficult as one would think it is. But how to do it? Let’s learn an easy trick that helps us identify a material noun.

Look at an object around you and ask what materials are used to make it.

There must be multiple objects that you see where you are. Let me ask you a question: what are you sitting on?

The answer can be different, but let’s just say that it’s a couch. Now, ask yourself, “What are the materials that are used to make that couch?”.

Wood, paint, cotton, iron, silk, jute, and iron can be some of the things it is definitely made from. These are the names of materials (material nouns) that this object (couch) is made from.

Now, let’s look at this dish ‘white sauce pasta’. Let’s ask the same question and find out the material nouns used in making this dish.

We are not professional cooks, but we can see the following materials used in the dish:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Pasta
  • Tomato
  • Mushroom
  • Brocolli
  • Salt
  • Olive
  • Carrot

These are some materials that are definitely used to make this object, which is White Sauce pasta. Note that when we talk about the vegetables here, they are not used as an item; we are referring to the material only. Considering them an item will put them into the category of a common noun, not a material noun.

Also, you would find it fascinating that most material nouns, when considered an item, function as a common noun.

Similarly, everything around you is made of some materials called material nouns.

Objects and the materials (material noun) used in making them

Objects (final product)Materials used
Teamilk, sugar, tea leaves, water…
Cakebread, milk, cream, cheese, sugar…
Housebrick, cement, iron, sand, wood, water, plastic, stone…
Sharpeneriron, plastic…
Computerglass, plastic, iron, steel…
Pizzabread/flour, salt, tomato, cheese/milk, meat…
Bagleather, plastic…
Burgerbread, meat, salt, cheese, tomato, onion, potato…
Cariron, plastic, glass, leather, rubber…

Important points to note about material nouns

1. Material nouns are uncountable as we refer to the material, not the object or the product. So, don’t use quantifiers before a material noun.
  • You can’t make this dish without a bread. ❌
  • You can’t make this dish without bread. ✅
  • We need to add a cheese to it to make it more delicious. ❌
  • We need to add cheese to it to make it more delicious. ✅
  • Don’t play with a sand. ❌
  • Don’t play with sand. ✅
  • Can you pass me a glass? (common noun)
  • We use good quality glass in making this. (material noun)
2. Most material nouns are also common nouns. If you refer to them as a product, consider them a common noun, and if you refer to them as a material used to make an object, consider them a material noun.
  • This dish can’t be made without milk. (material noun)
  • I love drinking milk. (common noun)

In the first example, the noun ‘tomato’ is used as an item (object) and goes into the category of a common noun as the speaker is referring to the object, not the material. But in the next example, the speaker is referring to the material which is tomato, not the item.

  • He gave me a tomato in the morning. (common noun)
  • Tomato is the main ingredient used in the recipe. (material noun)
3. We use the definite article ‘the’ to refer to a specific material. Using ‘the’ before a material noun does not make it countable.
  • You should have put the water in. It looked dirty.
  • The iron used in this structure was rusty.
4. Since we can weigh the material, we can use quantifiers that are used with uncountable nouns.
  • We put a lot of water into the curry and ruined it.
  • There is not much honey left in the bottle.
  • Add a little water to it.

Some, much, a little, little, a lot of, and a great deal of are the quantifiers that are used to modify the quantity of an uncountable noun.


What is a material noun?

A material noun is a name of a material/substance something is made from. It works as a raw material for an item. Since it is a material, we can’t count it. We can weigh it though.

Give some examples of material noun?

Here are some examples of material nouns in sentences:
1. They didn’t use good iron in the structure.
2. Gold is getting expensive day by day.
3. Please don’t add milk to my tea.
4. The copper used in the design was imported from Japan.
5. I made the furniture with just wood and leather.

How to use material noun?

We use material nouns as a material that is used to make something. It refers to the material and is considered uncountable. We can weigh the material nouns though.

Is milk a common noun or material noun?

Milk can be used as both a common noun and a material noun. When you refer to it as an object in itself, it is considered a common noun. But when you refer to it as a substance/material used in making something, it is considered a material noun.

Is curd a material noun?

Yes, curd is a material noun. As a material noun, it is used to make something.

Is Apple a material noun?

Apple is a common noun. There are different varieties of apples. But note that it can be used as a material noun when you refer to it as a material used in making something.

Is Rice a material noun?

Rice can be used as both a common noun and a material noun in different contexts.

Is cheese a material noun?

Cheese is one of the nouns in English that fall into two different categories of a noun: 1) Common noun 2) Material noun. As a common noun, it refers to something (object) that has different types, and as a material noun, it refers to the material (that is cheese) used in making something like cake, pizza, etc.

Now, we know everything about material nouns in English. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.

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Ashish found his first love—the English language—a few years back. Since then, he has been immersed in the language, breaking down the language and teaching it to passionate English learners. He has a flair for listening to the English language (podcasts, sitcoms, stories), observing the nuances, and making it easy for English learners. He is known for breaking down complex English topics and making them easy to be understood.

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