Countable and Uncountable Nouns

It's important to know if a noun is countable or uncountable. This is going to help us to use the correct article. Let's learn more.

Diffrence between "Countable and Uncountable Nouns" in English Grammar

What Do We Mean by Countable and Uncountable Nouns?

Nouns can be classified into two groups based on whether they can be counted or not:

  1. countable nouns
  2. uncountable nouns

Countable Nouns

Countable nouns can be quantified, for example, one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, etc. Countable nouns are typically categorized into two groups.

Take a look at some examples:

There are two notebooks in your bag.

In this example, using a number before a noun makes it obvious that it is countable.

I have one apple and two sandwiches. Do you want some?

Uncountable Nouns

Uncountable nouns, also known as mass nouns, cannot be quantified, for example, butter, water, rice, etc. They are typically used with a singular verb and do not have a plural form.

I'll make some coffee.

There isn't any sugar left.

How much rice is needed in this dish?

Tip!

When we use words like "cheeses" or "wines", we are not referring to the uncountable noun itself, but rather to its various types or varieties. A particular type of cheese or wine is countable because it is a characteristic of the noun, rather than the noun itself.

Switzerland has many different cheeses and wines.

Here we mean 'Switzerland has many different varieties of cheese and wine'.

There are many different rices in Asia.

Types of Uncountable Nouns

'Uncountable nouns' are categorized into two groups based on whether they can be touched or not.

Abstract Uncountable Nouns

Abstract nouns are intangible and cannot be perceived through the senses. To better understand these types of nouns, consider the following groups of abstract uncountable nouns.

  • gerunds: nouns such as swimming, eating, dancing, playing, etc, are considered uncountable.

Playing football makes me fresh.

Smoking was his worst habit.

  • languages: nouns such as English, Spanish, French, Italian, etc, are considered uncountable.

French is too hard to learn.

Spanish was my favorite language back then.

  • sports: nouns such as cricket, football, basketball, soccer, rugby are considered uncountable nouns.

Basketball is one of the most famous games of all time.

Football makes you fast and strong.

  • subjects and fields: nouns such as physics, mathematics, poetry, history, etc, are considered uncountable.

I studied history which was actually really interesting for me.

This music is created by his father.

  • state of being: nouns such as happiness, sadness, birth, death, energy, forgiveness, etc, are considered uncountable.

For me, happiness is the most important thing in my life.

Forgiveness is a powerful act that can bring peace and healing to both the forgiver and the forgiven.

  • abstract ideas: nouns such as information, education, knowledge, etc, are considered uncountable.

His information is based on the news so it has to be true.

He does not have much knowledge about Chemistry.

Concrete Uncountable Nouns

Concrete uncountable nouns are tangible and can be perceived through the senses. To learn more about these types of nouns, take a look at the following list.

  • amorphous substances: nouns such as kinds of liquids, materials, grains, powders, gasses are considered uncountable.
  1. liquids: substances such as water, juice, milk, soup, etc., are considered uncountable.
  2. materials: substances such as cotton, gold, silver, etc., are considered uncountable.
  3. powders: substances such as coffee powder, cinnamon, sugar, etc., are considered uncountable.
  4. gasses: substances such as air, Neon, Xeon, etc., are considered uncountable.
  5. grains: substances such as rice, sand, salt, sugar, corn, wheat, etc., are considered uncountable.

Pay attention to the examples:

I drank my tea and finished it. → liquid

This neckless is made of gold. → material

I hate cocoa in my milk. → powder

The air was polluted so I wore a mask. → gas

Put some sugar in my coffee; I don't like it dark. → grain

What Is the Difference between Collective and Uncountable Nouns?

Some uncountable nouns, such as 'furniture' and 'equipment', are often used in sets or collections, which can make them appear similar to collective nouns. However, the difference is that collective nouns are countable and can be used with indefinite articles, whereas uncountable nouns cannot.

I will make a team that can beat yours easily.

'team' is a collective noun

I have had a furniture.

'furniture' is an uncountable noun

Using Countable Nouns in a Sentence

Partitives

Partitives are words or phrases that are followed by the particle 'of' and are used to refer to a portion of a following noun, whether it is countable or uncountable. Examples of partitives include 'a spoonful of,' 'a bunch of,' 'a flock of,' 'a bottle of,' 'a piece of,' 'a slice of,' 'a glass of,' 'some of,' 'lots of,' 'a lot of,' 'many of,' and 'a number of.' Here are some examples:"

Give me a slice of the cheese.

A lot of people were standing in lines for the Black Friday discounts.

Using Quantifiers with Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Some 'quantifiers' are only used with countable nouns because they refer to a number whether it is a definite or indefinite number. Check out the examples:

A glass of water was left on the table.

In this sentence the word 'glass' is a countable noun and it can be used with indefinite article 'a.'

A water was left on the table.

Here, the word 'water' is an uncountable noun, as a result you cannot use it after an indefinite article.

✓ I have used many jars of jam.

Here the noun 'jar' is a countable noun so we can use it with 'many.'

✗ I have used many jam.

In this example, 'jam' is uncountable so we cannot used it with 'many.'

Countable Nouns Uncountable Nouns
a, an
several
few
many

Some quantifiers can only be used with uncountable nouns. These quantifiers refer to an amount and as a result, they cannot indicate numbers for countable nouns. Check out the examples.

✓ I can see little progress in cancer research.

✗ I can see a few progress in cancer research.

Much information is required to solve the case.

Many information is required to solve the case.

Uncountable Nouns Countable Nouns
little
much

Furthemore, some quantifiers can be used with either countable or uncountable nouns. Look at the examples.

You did not put enough sugar powder on the cake.

The police had enough reasons to arrest him.

Countable Nouns Uncountable Nouns
some
any
enough

Review

Based on whether nouns can have plural forms or not, they can be categorized in countable or uncountable nouns.

Uncountable Nouns Countable Nouns
we cannot count them we can count them
we cannot add a number before them we can add a number before them
they never get s or es they can get s or es
they can have containers _

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