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					                         COUNTABLE AND UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

A noun can be countable or uncountable. Countable nouns can be "counted", they have a
singular and plural form .

For example:

                                                        A book, two books, three books .....
                                                        An apple, two apples, three apples ....

Uncountable nouns (also called mass nouns or noncount nouns) cannot be counted, they are
not seperate objects. This means you cannot make them plural by adding -s, because they only
have a singular form. It also means that they do not take a/an or a number in front of them.

For example:

                                                        Water
                                                        Work
                                                        Information
                                                        Coffee
                                                        Sand

                     Countable                                    Uncountable
         (use a/an or a number in front of              (there is no a/an or number with
                 countable nouns)                            uncountable nouns)

    An Apple / 1 Apple                           Rice

                                                 I eat rice every day. (not I eat a rice every
    I eat an apple every day.

        Add (s) to make a countable noun                 There is no plural form for an
                        plural                                  uncountable noun

    apples                                       rice

    I eat an apple every day. Apples
                                                 I eat rice every day. Rice is good for you.
    are good for you.

                                                 To make uncountable nouns countable
                                                 add a counting word, such as a unit of
    A computer= Computers are fun.
                                                 measurement, or the general word piece.
                                                 We use the form "a ....... of ......."

    An elephant=Elephants are large.             Rice=a grain of rice
                                               Water=a glass of water

                                               Rain=a drop of rain

                                               Music=a piece of music

    You can use some and any with              You can use some and any with
    countable nouns.                           uncountable nouns.
    Some dogs can be dangerous.                I usually drink some wine with my meal.
    I don't use any computers at work.         I don't usually drink any water with my

    You only use many and few with plural
                                               You only use much and little with
    countable nouns.
                                               uncountable nouns.
    So many elephants have been hunted that
                                               I don't usually drink much coffee.
    they are an endangered species.
                                               Little wine is undrinkable though.
    There are few elephants in England.

    You can use a lot of and no with plural    You can use a lot of and no with
    countable nouns.                           uncountable nouns.
    No computers were bought last week.        A lot of wine is drunk in France.
    A lot of computers were reported broken    No wine is drunk in Iran.
    the week before.

Making uncountable nouns countable

You can make most uncountable noun countable by putting a countable expression in front of
the noun.

For example:-

                                                      A piece of information.
                                                      2 glasses of water.
                                                      10 litres of coffee.
                                                      Three grains of sand.
                                                      A pane of glass.

Sources of confusion with countable and uncountable nouns

The notion of countable and uncountable can be confusing.

Some nouns can be countable or uncountable depending on their meaning. Usually a noun is
uncountable when used in a general, abstract meaning (when you don't think of it as a separate
object) and countable when used in a particular meaning (when you can think of it as a separate

For example:-

glass - A glass of water. (Countable) | A window made of glass. (Uncountable)

Some supposedly uncountable nouns can behave like countable nouns if we think of them as
being in containers, or one of several types.

This is because 'containers' and 'types' can be counted.

Believe it or not each of these sentences is correct:-

Doctors recommend limiting consumption to two coffees a day.
(Here coffees refers to the number of cups of coffee)
You could write; "Doctors recommend limiting consumption to two cups of coffee a day."

The coffees I prefer are Arabica and Brazilian.
(Here coffees refers to different types of coffee)
You could write; "The types of coffee I prefer are Arabica and Brazilian."

!Note - In good monolingual dictionaries, uncountable nouns are identified by [U] and countable
nouns by [C].

Some uncountable nouns in English are countable in other languages. This can be confusing!
Here is a list of some of the most common, easy to confuse uncountable nouns.


Obviously, uncountable nouns (especially different types of food) have forms that express plural
concepts. These measurements or containers are countable:
water - a glass of water
equipment - a piece of equipment
cheese - a slice of cheese

Here are some of the most common containers / quantity expressions for these uncountable

accommodation - a place to stay
advice - a piece of advice
baggage - a piece of baggage
bread - a slice of bread, a loaf of bread
equipment - a piece of equipment
furniture - a piece of furniture
garbage - a piece of garbage
information - a piece of information
knowledge - a fact
luggage - a piece of luggage, a bag, a suitcase
money - a note, a coin
news - a piece of news
pasta - a plate of pasta, a serving of pasta
research - a piece of research, a research project
travel - a journey, a trip
work - a job, a position

            an article/item of clothing          una prenda de vestir

            a blade of grass                     una hoja de hierba/césped

            a block of cement                    un bloque de cemento

            a breath of fresh air                un soplo de aire fresco

            a clap of thunder                    un trueno

            a cloud of dust                      una polvareda

            a cloud of smoke                     una humareda

            a crust of bread                     una corteza

            a dash of pepper                     una pizca de pimienta

            a fit of rage/temper                 un arranque de ira

            a flash of lightning                 un relámpago

            a grain of rice                      un grano de arroz

            a gust of wind                       una ráfaga de viento

            a head of hair                       una cabellera

            an item/piece of news                una noticia

            a jet of water                       un chorro de agua

            a loaf of bread                      una barra de pan

            a lock of hair                       un mechón de pelo
             a lump of coal                          un carbón

             a lump of sugar                         un terrón de azúcar

             a means of transport                    un medio de transporte

             a pat of butter                         una porción de manteca

             a piece of information                  un dato

             a piece of advice                       un consejo

             a piece of furniture                    un mueble

             a piece of luggage                      una maleta

             a piece of music                        una pieza musical

             a pile of earth                         una pila de tierra

             a slice of meat                         una tajada de carne

             a spell of hot weather                  una ola de calor
             a spot of rain                          una gota de lluvia
             a stroke of luck                        un golpe de suerte

Here are some more common uncountable food types with their container / quantity

liquids (water, beer, wine, etc.) - a glass, a bottle, a jug of water, etc.
cheese - a slice, a chunk, a piece of cheese
meat - a piece, a slice, a pound of meat
butter - a bar of butter
ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard - a bottle of, a tube of ketchup, etc.

Some / Any / Much / Many

Some       A little, a few or small number or amount.

         We usually use some in positive sentences for countable and uncountable

          I have some friends in London.

          I usually drink some wine with my meal.

          Sometimes we use some in a question, when we expect a positive YES answer.

          Would you like some more tea?
         Could I have some more sugar please?

Any      One, small or all. It is used with negative sentences.

       When asking questions and when a sentence is grammatically positive, but the
meaning of the sentence

        is negative.

         Do you have any ice cream left for me?

         My brother never does any chores.

         We use any for both countable and uncountable nouns.

         Do you have any cheese?

         He doesn't have any friends in Paris.

Much      It is used with uncountable nouns.

        They don't have much money to buy a present.

Many      It is used with countable nouns.

         I don't have many English stamps in my collection.

Much and Many are used to express that there is a large quantity of something.

common problems with count/uncount nouns

1: Uncount nouns used as count nouns

Although substances are usually uncount nouns...

       Would you like some cheese?
       Coffee keeps me awake at night.
       Wine makes me sleep.

... they can be also used as count nouns:
I’d like a coffee please.                      =   I’d like a [cup of] coffee.

May I have a white wine.                       =   May I have a [glass of] white wine.

They sell a lot of coffees.                    =   They sell a lot of [different kinds of] coffee.

I prefer white wines to red.                   =   I prefer [different kinds of] white wine to red.

They had over twenty cheeses on sale.          =   They had over twenty [types of] cheese on sale.

This is an excellent soft cheese.              =   This [kind of] soft cheese is excellent.

2: Some nouns have both a count and an uncount form:

       We should always have hope.
       George had hopes of promotion.
       Travel is a great teacher.
       Where did you go on your travels?

3: Nouns with two meanings

Some nouns have two meanings, one count and the other non count:

       His life was in danger.
       There is a serious danger of fire.

       Linguistics is the study of language.
       Is English a difficult language?

       It’s made of paper.
       The Times is an excellent paper.

Other words like this are:

business       death          industry   marriage         power       property

tax            time           victory    use              work

4: Uncount nouns that end in -s

Some uncount nouns end in -s so they look like plurals even though they are singular nouns.
    These nouns generally refer to:

    Subjects of study:            mathematics, physics, economics, etc.

    Activities:                   gymnastics, athletics, etc.

    Games:                        cards, darts, billiards, etc.

    Diseases:                     mumps, measles, rabies, etc.

             Economics is a very difficult subject.
             Billiards is easier than pool or snooker.

    5: Group nouns

    Some nouns, like army, refer to groups of people, animals or things, and we can use
    them either as singular nouns or as plural nouns.

    army           audience           committee             company       crew            enemy

    family         flock              gang                  government    group           herd

    media          public             regiment              staff         team

    We can use these group nouns either as singular nouns or as plural nouns:

   My family is very dear to me.
    I have a large family. They are very dear to me. (= The members of my family…)
   The government is very unpopular.
    The government are always changing their minds.

    Sometimes we think of the group as a single thing:

   The audience always enjoys the show.
   The group consists of two men and three women.

    Sometimes we think of the group as several individuals;

   The audience clapped their hands.
   The largest group are the boys.
    The names of many organisations and teams are also group nouns, but they are usually
    plural in spoken English:

   Barcelona are winning 2-0.
   The United Oil Company are putting prices up by 12%.

    6: Two-part nouns

    A few plural nouns, like binoculars, refer to things that have two parts.

    glasses          jeans              knickers        pincers                 pants    pliers

    pyjamas          scissors           shorts          spectacles              tights   trainers

    trousers         tweezers

    These binoculars were very expensive
    Those trousers are too long.

    To make it clear we are talking about one of these items, we use a pair of …

    I need a new pair of spectacles.
    I’ve bought a pair of blue jeans.

    If we want to talk about more than one, we use pairs of … :

           We’ve got three pairs of scissors, but they are all blunt.
           I always carry two pairs of binoculars.

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