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ロケットから出たガスなどが小さな氷になって...
The gases that came from the rocket turned into small ice (crystals) and ...

Is this sentence complete? I would expect to see "small ice crystals", "small pieces of ice" etc, rather than just "small ice".

If this is fine can I extend it to other quantities that, in English, would be regarded as uncountable, e.g. can I say 大きな水 to mean large droplets of water, or even large amounts of water. Depending on the context I can imagine this referring to cloud formation or contrasting the size of a lake with the size of an ocean.

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  • A droplet is a small drop of liquid. A drop is 滴{しずく}in Japanese. 大きな滴の水 would be a large drop of water. – BJCUAI Jan 20 '18 at 22:12
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小さな氷 is perfectly valid in Japanese. It refers to small ice particles rather than a small amount of ice (or 少量の氷). You can also say 大きな氷, 3個の氷 and such referring to each block of ice. But you cannot usually say 大きな水 and you should say 多くの水 or たくさんの水 instead.

Distinction of countable and uncountable nouns is not always the same in other languages. Japanese people who are learning English, including myself, often make mistakes like "two ices", "three newses", "five breads", etc. See also: What is a TV news story called?

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  • Maybe I'm misunderstanding the question, but I thought the issue was the size of the ice, not the amount of the ice. How would you say "big ice crystals" if 大きな氷 is not allowed? Surely 多くの氷 doesn't refer to the size. – Leebo Jan 21 '18 at 2:13
  • @Leebo 多くの氷 and 大きな氷 are both fine. The former usually refers to many pieces of ice, and the latter refers to one large block of ice. – naruto Jan 21 '18 at 5:03

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