The word software is a mass noun because it can be used to refer to a mass (or nonspecific number) of computing programs or products. Mass nouns function as both singular and plural nouns. They can describe either one item, multiple items of the same type, or an entire category of items. Some examples include bread, rice, hair, garbage, and ice. It isn’t necessary to add an s to the end of a word when it’s used to refer to a plural number of things. The same word (bread) can be used to refer to a single loaf of bread or all the loaves of bread in a grocery store. The word software can be used in the same way.
Software could refer to a single software product or multiple software products. You can say, “A very popular word processing software option is Microsoft Word,” or “The office uses Microsoft software for its word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and email.” Software can also be used to describe the entire product category. For example, “Microsoft is one of the world’s largest software companies.”
Software is the program (or set of directions) that computers use to complete a function. Some well-known software programs include Acrobat, Photoshop, and Excel. The companies that develop these programs are called software companies. Software enables people to use computers to edit documents and images, organize data, file taxes, and perform many other tasks. Some software may come preinstalled on a computer and enables the machine to function. Others can be downloaded from the internet or bought at a store and installed onto the computer.
The word hardware is also a mass noun. Hardware is the physical computer or accessories that use the software programs. The computer, monitor, keyboard, and printer are all hardware. Without software, hardware can’t really do much.
The plural form of software is software. This is true even when you’re referring to multiple programs. Softwares (with an S at the end) isn’t an actual word, but some individual software developers have chosen to use it as part of their company names.
You can combine other words with software to indicate more than one. Software products, software solutions, and software programs are examples that help make it clear that you’re talking about more than one software product.
Many computer users are migrating to handheld devices (like smartphones or tablets) for computing tasks. These devices use a form of software called an app (which is short for application). The plural of app is apps. It isn’t a mass noun.
The way people use computers is continually changing, but the language used to describe the products that make computing possible remains the same. Software and hardware work together to make a computer function. Both are mass nouns and can be used widely to describe any number of items.
Back to Top