Preview: Countable and Uncountable Nouns, Overview

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1 Overview

1A Countable nouns
Countable nouns are the names of separate, individual things, people or ideas
which we can count.
We can use these nouns in the singular or in the plural.
We can also use them together with the article a/an (Articles), with numbers,
and with many/few (Quantifiers).




a pocket calculator, 10 pocket calculators, many pocket calculators
an accountant, three accountants, a few accountants
a proposal, two proposals, many proposals

1B Uncountable nouns
Uncountable nouns ("mass nouns") are the names of substances (e.g.
materials, liquids), abstract qualities and other things which we cannot count
because we see them as masses and not as separate things or ideas.
Most uncountable nouns have no plural form. We can use them with much/little
(Quantifiers) but not with many/few or with numbers.
We cannot normally use uncountable nouns together with the article a/an
(Articles) but we can use them with some (Quantifiers).




butter, a little butter, some butter
petrol, much petrol, some petrol
love, much love, a little love

Uncountable nouns with plural forms
Uncountable nouns which can be used with the article A/AN
Nouns which are always uncountable
Nouns which can be both countable or uncountable
2 Countable or uncountable?
Normally it is quite easy to see if a noun is countable or uncountable. However,
some nouns which are uncountable in English may be countable in other
languages ,e.g., German. (Check in a good dictionary if you are not sure.)
2A Nouns which are always uncountable
Here are some nouns which are uncountable in English. If we need a
countable noun instead, we can often use a construction that includes a
countable noun (e.g. a piece of advice) or an alternative noun (e.g. loaf
instead of bread).
Uncountable

Countable

accommodation

a place to live / to stay

Source: http://www.doksi.net

advice

a piece of advice

bread

a loaf (of bread); a sandwich, a roll, etc.

damage

a scratch / a dent , etc. (e.g. in a car)

equipment

a piece of equipment; tools, instruments, etc.

evidence

a piece of evidence

furniture

a piece of furniture; chairs, tables, etc.

information

a piece of information

knowledge

a fact/thing (which someone knows)

land

a piece / plot of land

luggage

a piece / an item of luggage; a suitcase, a bag, etc.

money

a coin, a banknote, an amount

news

a piece of news / a news item (e.g. in a newspaper)

parking

a parking space, a place to park

permission

a permit

progress

a step forward

research

a piece of research; a study

traffic

cars / vehicles

travel
journey, trip
Nouns which can be countable or uncountable
2A-1 Uncountable nouns with plural forms
2A-1a Plural forms with singular meaning
The following nouns look like plurals but have singular meaning and we use
them with singular verbs. They have no singular form.





news, data , customs
some subjects of study: economics, mathematics, statistics , politics ,
etc.
some sports and games: athletics, gymnastics, etc; billiards, darts, etc.
some illnesses: measles, mumps, etc.




The news from North America hasn't been very encouraging lately.
Statistics is not exactly my strongest point, I'm afraid.

Countable nouns in the plural
Uncountable nouns - overview
2A-1b Plural forms with plural meaning
The following nouns have plural meaning and we use them with plural verbs.
We can use them with many/few (Quantifiers). They have no singular form.


cattle, livestock

Source: http://www.doksi.net












pair nouns: jeans, glasses, scales, scissors, etc.
clothes, congratulations, contents, funds, goods, manners, premises,
regards, savings, stairs, surroundings, thanks, etc.
certain nationality words: the Dutch, the French; the British, the English,
the Welsh; the Spanish, etc.
More about nationality words

Many cattle are suffering from the unusual heat.
I always keep a spare pair of glasses in the office.
All her savingsare invested in stocks .
Many thanks!
Best regards.
The Bri
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tish are said to be good at team sports.
BUT:
There is a British woman working in our department.

Countable nouns in the plural
Uncountable nouns - overview
2A-2 Uncountable nouns which can take the article a/an
With some uncountable nouns we must use the article a/an if we use them in a
specific and not in a general sense. Most of these nouns refer to feelings or to
mental activity.
General
Specific
Knowledge is power. I am looking for a PA with a sound knowledge of Italian.
The things we do for Since she moved to the country she has developed a
love!
surprising love of nature.
The article A/AN
Uncountable nouns - overview

2B Nouns which can be countable or uncountable
Many nouns can be countable as well as uncountable. There is often a
difference in meaning between the two.
Uncountable

Let's do business! (i.e., buy and sell)
Some of our politicians don't seem to
believe in democracy. (i.e., the idea of
democracy)

Countable
I hope to have a business of my own
one day. (i.e., a shop, an agency, etc.)
Austria is a democracy. (i.e., a
democratic state)

After many initial difficulties the
I have difficulty doing sums in my head.
business is doing well now. (i.e., after
(I find it difficult to do this.)
many different problems)
Applicants for this job need considerable I had a really strange experience on
managerial experience. (They must
the train the other day. (A strange
have worked in management before.)
thing happened.)

Source: http://www.doksi.net

He's had a hard life. (i.e., his life in
particular)
He's gone out to buy a paper. (i.e., a
We need some typing paper.
newspaper)
The agent showed me several
She lost all her property in an
attractive properties near the city
earthquake. (i.e., everything she owned) centre. (i.e., houses, flats or pieces of
land)
Three sugars, please. (i.e., three
Do you take sugar in your coffee?
pieces / spoons of sugar)
You needn't hurry, we have plenty of
How many times have I told you not
time.
to do this? (i.e., how often)
They grow some very nice wines in
I don't drink much wine. I prefer lager.
California. (i.e., different kinds of wine)
Several valuable works of art were
There's always too much work and too
destroyed in the fire. (i.e., paintings or
little time to do it in.
sculptures)
Nouns which are always uncountable
Life is unfair. (i.e., life in general)