Stuff by Matthew Orlando

Latest release: Release v1/220116 · cogwheel/Stuff.i7xp · GitHub

A simple extension to embody the “mass noun” concept described in 3.18. Articles and proper names, along with some other minor improvements.

Silly history

I picked up Inform for the first time a few days ago. When toying around with new design tools, IF or otherwise, I usually like to model my house. I laid the rooms out pretty quickly and started working on some of the things.

Well, the first thing you encounter at our house is a gray Litter Genie on our porch. We no longer have any cats, but it’s a great place to store our dog’s poop bags when we come home from a walk.

“There is some poo in the litter genie.” Did not have the outcome I expected.

A few days of cramming docs, trawling forums, and going down rabbit holes all the way to Inform 6 later, and here we are.

This extension exists because of poo.


This is pretty hilarious. You’re right, the “some” pronoun is for text prettiness but still applies to a single object - like “some water” or “some socks” (which can also be “a pair” of socks.) What you’re essentially getting into is liquid-handling…but with poo.

I think someone created an extension called “Multitudes” at one point which would deal with an enormous jar of jelly beans, or a pile of leaves where the player was allowed to select one or many from a whole.

Bless you for the attempt to model air and water - and what I assume is a concept like cutting part of a cake or a loaf of bread or taking some poo from a volume! Often the practical suggestion for this this comes down to “Write around it narratively instead of trying to model the world exactly…” but these are excellent implementation exercises and illustrative of problems that can crop up in parser worlds.


At the moment, this only affects the grammar of stuff (plurality and articles). Making it so stuff can be divisible or indivisible has definitely been on my mind.

Conceptually, things like multitudes, fluids, measurables, etc. are special cases of “divisible stuff.”


One nice-to-have would be to deduce the stuff kind from the articles and other usage. But this seems like it would take some black magic…

In a certain sense that’s what Inform’s built-in functionality does, for the water-example.

If you write, as per the manual’s recommendation:

The water is here. The indefinite article is "some".

… then Inform will deduce both “singular-named” and “improper-named” from the “The” (the “is” doesn’t play a role, result would be the same with “are” in the definition), automatically leading to the correctly applied singular verb-form (“a sink (in which is some water)” if we put it in the sink) and to the correctly applied definite article (“You see nothing special about the water.”). We only needed to adjust the indefinite article to “some” so that we don’t get “a water” in the inventory etc.

And in connection with that (at the risk of sounding like nitpicking, but I’m not meaning to), I think the wording in the extension’s documentation is a tiny bit misleading.
It says about the manual’s recommended approach (The water is here. The indefinite article is "some".): “This works fine but has some limitations.” – but then it talks about limitations which only apply to a different statement/syntax which is intended to give a different result:
Some water is [...].

I agree it sounds natural and can be tempting (given Inform’s natural language perspective) to write “Some water is in the sink.” here, and it is legal syntax, but as noted in the manual, Inform will use the “Some” to determine that it’s meant to be plural (the singular “is” in the definition doesn’t counter that, the result would be the same with “are”), so this is expected to lead to a different outcome.

1 Like

That’s my point in what you quoted. Inform uses “some” to deduce plurality, but it could also see the use of both “some” (plural indefinite article) and “is” (singular to be) on the noun and decide it should be “stuff” instead of “thing”

I’m not happy with the state of the documentation in general, so this’ll get cleaned up. I think the confusion is more about what I left implied. I was referring to the technique of changing the indefinite article, not the whole statement.


The documentation does say you can override that:

Finally, we can override these settings, if they still come out not as we intend, by explicitly changing the either/or properties “singular-named” (vs “plural-named”) and “proper-named” (vs “improper-named”).

So you can write:

Some water is in the sink. It is singular-named.

(Apologies if this has already been pointed out.)

stuff is always singular-named. the indefinite article is "some". is most of this extension. The rest forces “The/the” on proper-named stuff.

This came about in another thread Uncountable nouns - #3 by cogwheel

1 Like