Chapter 1-6: Partitives

Grammar > Parts of Speech > Partitives

WHEN TO USE THEM: partitives are words or phrases that indicate a part or quantity of something as distinct from a whole. Anglophones must often use partitives to describe measures for things such as non-countable nouns that are normally not measurable on their own.


[indefinite article + single countable noun + “of”] or

[number/determiner + plural countable noun + “of”]

For example:

  • a bag of popcorn (“a” is an indefinite article)

  • three bags of popcorn (“three” is a number)

  • several bags of popcorn (“several” is a determiner)

Some nouns cannot be used in the singular form. Use a partitive to make them plural. There are many common phrases (collocations) that often go together in English. For example…

  • a pair of pants

  • a pair of jeans

  • a pair of glasses

There are many partitives. English students usually learn them through exposure to the language. Special types of dictionaries such as a “learner's dictionary” or a “collocations dictionary” can help students find partitives easily. Learners can also type “list of partitives” in their preferred search engine to see a list of common partitives. One such list is available (please let Jamie know if this link is broken) at and here are a few examples of this variety:

  • a bar of chocolate

  • a cup of coffee

  • a scrap of evidence

Maintaining this website requires alerts and feedback from the students that use it when they see a problem or have a suggestion.

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