Countable and Uncountable Nouns - Definitions and Examples
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- Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Overview of Countable and Uncountable Nouns:
- What Is a Countable Noun?
- Countable and Uncountable Nouns - Video Lesson
- What Is an Uncountable Noun?
- Uncountable Nouns – Chart
- Quantity Expressions - (A Piece of/ A Bit of)
- Quantifiers for Countable and Uncountable Nouns
- Articles with Countable and Uncountable Nouns
- Tricky Nouns
- Subject-Verb Agreement
- Warning about Irregular Countable/Uncountable Nouns
- Partitive Expressions: Giving a Count to the Uncountable
- Is That Fewer or Less?
- Countable and Uncountable Nouns - Quiz
What Is a Countable Noun?
A countable noun refers to an item that can be counted. Countable nouns can be singular or plural, and they are mostly used with one of the articles: a, an, or the, or quantifiers such as a few and many.
a few apples
What Is an Uncountable Noun?
An uncountable noun is one that can't be counted. Nine times out of ten, uncountable nouns are used in singular forms, which means they either stand alone or are used with quantifiers like some, a little, and so on.
a little weight
As you can see, each countable noun has a count with it like three, five, and so on. Significantly, none of the uncountable nouns has it.
Quick tip: An easy way to distinguish between the countable and uncountable is we mostly use "how many" with the former, while we stick to "how much" with the latter.
How many poems?
How much sugar?
Uncountable Nouns – Chart
List of uncountable nouns with examples. Remember there's more to the list than what is here.
Click on the Circles to Spot the Six Uncountable Nouns
Quantity Expressions - (A Piece of/ A Bit of)
If you wish to refer to one or more quantities of an uncountable noun, you must use expressions like "a piece of" and "a bit of".
That was an interesting piece of information.
A little bit of advice would help Mark steer clear of the crisis.
Quantifiers for Countable and Uncountable Nouns
several students, much enthusiasm, little sugar, few teachers, some cities, some salt
Articles with Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Singular countable nouns are always accompanied by one of the indefinite articles: a, or an.
When a countable noun is mentioned for a second time, we use the definite article "the" with it.
I saw a lion at the zoo; the lion was majestic.
Uncountable nouns generally don't take articles.
I don't have sugar in my tea.
While referring to specific uncountable nouns, "the" is used.
I was impressed with the beauty of the flower.
Some nouns are both countable and uncountable. The noun "fruit" is generally uncountable.
Fruit is ideal for health.
But it can be a countable noun while referring to different kinds of fruit.
The store sells a great variety of exported fruits.
While referring to a single item, we use an indefinite article for uncountable nouns.
This is a very useful piece of information.
While countable nouns can take both singular and plural verbs, uncountable nouns take only singular verbs.
The park was exciting. All parks are exciting.
The furniture is great.
Warning about Irregular Countable/Uncountable Nouns
Some nouns cane be both countable and uncountable. Based on contextual clues, we decide whether the noun is used as countable or uncountable.
There are three rooms in this hotel. (The noun “room” is countable, and it means a bedroom.)
There is room to accommodate 20 people. (The noun “room” is uncountable, and it means space.)
Partitive Expressions: Giving a Count to the Uncountable
To count or quantify an uncountable noun, we use a unit of measurement — a measure word. For example, we cannot usually say "two breads", because "bread" is uncountable. So, if we want to specify a quantity of bread, we use a measure word such as "loaf" or "slice". Take, for example, "two loaves of bread" or "two slices of bread". They are called partitive structures or partitive expressions.
The word "partitive" indicates that only "part" of a whole is being referred to. The partitive structure using a measure word is common with uncountable nouns, but it can also be used with countable nouns.
a pane of glass
two boxes of matches
a can of worms
Is That Fewer or Less?
We often hear people using "less" with countable nouns. They say and write for example "There are less cars outside the school gates than usual" with such confidence and poise that we are tempted to think the sentence is grammatically correct. The rule, though, is that with countable nouns, we use only "fewer" and therefore, this practice should not be encouraged especially when it comes to formal writing or speaking.
Martin now has fewer friends than he used to. ("Fewer" is used with "friends" which is a countable noun.)
This website has less information than the other. ("Less" is used with "information" which is an uncountable noun.)
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