Nouns: Countable and Uncountable
- Countable Nouns
- Uncountable Nouns
- Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Nouns can be either countable or uncountable (also known as mass nouns) in the English language. The former refer to individual things, while the latter name things we consider a whole or cannot count, including abstract nouns.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Lemons is a countable noun in its plural form; lemonade is an uncountable noun.
Rule 1: Most English nouns are countable nouns and can be used in their singular or plural form.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, which means apples are healthy.
Apple is a countable noun in its singular form, and apples is its plural.
Rule 2: We can use numbers and indefinite articles in front of countable nouns.
I have a brother, and my friend has five sisters.
Brother is a countable noun (singular) with an indefinite article a in front of it; sisters is a countable noun (plural) with a number five placed before it.
Note: We cannot use singular countable nouns without articles or possessive pronouns, but we can use plural countable nouns alone.
I saw your sister yesterday, she was with friends.
Sister is a singular countable noun used with a possessive pronoun your; friends is a plural countable noun that stands alone.
Rule 3: We can use quantifiers some, any, (a) few, many with plural countable nouns.
There are only a few eggs left in the fridge.
Eggs is a plural countable noun.
Rule 4: To some collections or groups of countable nouns we can find a corresponding uncountable noun to describe them as a whole.
Here are some examples:
|Group of Countable Nouns||Corresponding Uncountable Noun|
|pants, t-shirts, socks||clothes|
|chairs, tables, sofas||furniture|
|blackberries, apples, avocados||fruit|
Rule 5: Some English nouns are uncountable and have only one form - usually, singular. They are used with verbs in the third person singular.
Can you bake bread?
Bread is a singular uncountable noun.
Note: Some uncountable nouns have only plural form and are used with verbs in the plural.
These new clothes were expensive.
Clothes is an uncountable noun that has only plural form and is used with the verb also in plural - were.
Rule 6: We use uncountable nouns without an article or possessive pronoun, and we cannot use numbers in front of them.
We need milk to make an omelette.
Milk is an uncountable noun that stands alone in contrast to omelette that is used with an indefinite article an.
Rule 7: We use quantifiers some, any, little, much with uncountable nouns.
She didn't have much cash during the trip.
Cash is an uncountable noun.
Rule 8: Uncountable nouns often refer to materials, liquids, and collections of things.
|materials||wood, paper, metal, glass, etc.|
|liquids||water, milk, oil, tea, coffee, etc.|
|collections||clothes, luggage, furniture, etc.|
How to Count Uncountable Nouns?
Rule 9: We can use different units to count uncountable nouns. This way, we count the units, not actual uncountable nouns.
Here are some of the most common units used with uncountable nouns:
|a glass of / a cup of||water, juice, milk, coffee, etc.||Can we have two cups of tea and a glass of water, please?|
|a piece of||bread, paper, advice, equipment, furniture, clothing, etc.||He has an important piece of information to share.|
|a bottle of / a jar of||wine, water / jam, peanut butter, honey||She brought two bottles of wine and a jar of fig jam.|
|a gram / kilo of||rice, flour, butter, meat, etc.||We need a half of a kilogram of beef for this recipe.|
|a litre of||water, milk, broth, etc.||We need about two litres of chicken broth for soup.|
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Rule 10: Some English nouns can be have both countable and uncountable form. In this case, a countable noun refers to specific things and uncountable - to more general.
My father was reading a paper, while my sister was making origamis of paper.
Noun paper has both countable and uncountable forms. In the first part of the sentence, it is used as a singular countable noun in the meaning of a newspaper (specific), and in the second - as a singular uncountable noun in the meaning of material (general).
Choose the correct form of a noun. They need new ___ in their kitchen.