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.
What Do We Mean by Countable and Non-countable Nouns?
We can categorize nouns into two groups, based on whether they can be counted or not:
- countable nouns
- uncountable nouns
'Countable nouns' can be counted, for example, one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, etc. Countable nouns are categorized into two groups.
Take a look at some examples:
In this example, using a number before a noun makes it obvious that it is countable.
'Uncountable nouns' (also called mass nouns) cannot be counted, for example, butter, water, rice, etc. Uncountable nouns are used with a singular verb. They usually do not have a plural form.
I'll make some
There isn't any
When we say for example 'cheeses' or 'wines' we do not mean cheese or wine in itself, but its varieties. A type of cheese or wine is countable because it is a characteristic of the noun, not the noun itself.
Switzerland has many different
Here we mean 'Switzerland has many different varieties of cheese and wine'.
There are many different
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 cannot be sensed, touched, or seen. So, check out these groups of abstract uncountable nouns to understand them better.
- gerunds: nouns such as swimming, eating, dancing, playing, etc, are considered uncountable.
- languages: nouns such as English, Spanish, French, Italian, etc, is considered uncountable.
- sports: nouns such as cricket, football, basketball, soccer, rugby are considered uncountable nouns.
- subjects and fields: nouns such as physics, mathematics, poetry, history, etc, are considered uncountable.
- state of being: nouns such as happiness, sadness, birth, death, energy, forgiveness, etc, are considered uncountable.
- abstract ideas: nouns such as information, education, knowledge, etc, are considered uncountable.
He does not have much
Concrete Uncountable Nouns
Concrete uncountable nouns can be easily touched, sensed, or seen. Check out the list to learn more about them.
- amorphous substances: nouns such as kinds of liquids, materials, grains, powders, gases are considered uncountable.
- liquids: substances such as water, juice, milk, soup, etc., are considered uncountable.
- materials: substances such as cotton, gold, silver, etc., are considered uncountable.
- powders: substances such as coffee powder, cinnamon, sugar, etc., are considered uncountable.
- gases: substances such as air, Neon, Xeon, etc., are considered uncountable.
- grains: substances such as rice, sand, salt, sugar, corn, wheat, etc., are considered uncountable.
check out the examples:
I drank my
This neckless is made of
What Is the Difference between Collective and Uncountable Nouns?
There are some uncountable nouns that look like collective nouns because they are used in a set of collections such as furniture or equipment. Here is the difference; Collective nouns are countable, as a result, they can be used with indefinite articles, but uncountable nouns such as 'furniture' cannot be used with an indefinite article.
I will make a
I have had
Partitives are words or phrases followed by the particle 'of.' They refer to a part of the following noun whether it is a countable or uncountable noun. partitives are phrases such as spoon of, a bunch of, a flock of, a bottle of, piece of, a slice of, a glass of, some of, lots of, a lot of, many of, a number of, any of. Here are some examples.
Give me a slice of the
A lot of
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 first then take a look at the table below:
In this sentence the word 'glass' is a countable noun and it can be used with indefinite article '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
Here the noun 'jar' is a countable noun so we can use it with 'many.'
✗ I have used
In this example, 'jam' is uncountable so we cannot used it with 'many.'
|Countable Nouns||Non-count Nouns|
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
✗ I can see
progress in cancer research.
information is required to solve the case.
|Non-count Nouns||Countable Nouns|
As it was mentioned, every determiner has its own rule. They can be used with special nouns. Some quantifiers can be used with either countable or uncountable nouns. Look at the examples.
You did not put
The police had
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
they can get
|they can have containers||_|