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Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Countable and Uncountable Nouns (1)

(A) A noun can be countable or uncountable.Compare:

Countable
• I eat a banana every day.
• I like bananas.

Banana is a countable noun.
A countable noun can be singular (banana) or plural (bananas).
Countable nouns are things we can count.So we can say 'one banana', 'two bananas' etc.

Examples of nouns usually countable:
• There's a beach near here.
• Ann was singing a song.
• Have you got a ten-pound note?
• It wasn't your fault.It was an accident.
• There are no batteries in the radio.
• We haven't got enough cups.


Uncountable
• I eat rice every day.
• I like rice.
Rice is an uncountable noun.
An uncountable noun has only one form (rice).
Uncountable nouns are things we cannot count.We cannot say 'one rice', 'two rices' etc.

Examples of nouns usually uncountable:
• There's sand in my shoes.
• Ann was listening to (some) music.
• Have you got any money?
• It wasn't your fault.It was bad luck.
• There is no electricity in this house.
• We haven't got enough water.


(B)

* You can use a/an with singular countable nouns:
a beach
a student
an umbrella

You cannot use singular countable nouns alone (without a/the/my etc.):
• I want a banana. (not 'I want banana')
• There's been an accident. (not 'There's been accident')

You can use plural countable nouns alone:
• I like bananas. (= bananas in general)
Accidents can be prevented.

* You cannot normally use a/an with uncountable nouns.We do not say 'a sand' or 'a music'.But you can often use a...of:
a bowl of rice
a piece of music
a drop of water
a game of tennis etc.


You can use uncountable nouns alone (without the/my/some etc.)
• I eat rice every day.
• There's blood on your shirt.
• Can you hear music?


(C)

* You can use some and any with plural countable nouns:
• We sang some songs.
• Did you buy any apples?
We use many and few with plural countable nouns:
• We didn't take many photographs.
• I have a few jobs to do.

* You can use some and any with uncountable nouns:
• We listened to some music.
• Did you buy any apple juice?
We use much and little with uncountable nouns:
• We didn't do much shopping.
• I have a little work to do.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns (2)

(A) Many nouns can be used as countable or uncountable nouns, usually with a difference in meaning.Compare:

Countable
• Did you hear a noise just now?
(= a particular noise)
• I bought a paper to read.
(= a newspaper)
• There's a hair in my soup!
(= one single hair)
• You can stay with us.There is a spare room.
(= a room in a house)
• I had some interesting experiences while I was away.
(= things that happened to me)
• Enjoy your holiday.Have a good time!

Uncountable
• I can't work here.There's too much noise. (not 'too many noises')
• I need some paper to write on. (= material for writing on)
• You've got very long hair. (not 'hairs') (= all the hair on your head)
• You can't sit here.There isn't room. (= space)
• They offered me the job because I had a lot of experience. (not 'experiences')
• I can't wait.I haven't got time.

(B) Coffee/tea/beer/juice etc. (drinks) are normally uncountable:
• I don't drink coffee very often.
But they can be countable when you're thinking of a cup / a glass etc.So you can say:
• (in a restaurant) Two coffees and an orange juice, please.


(C) There some nouns that are usually uncountable in English but often countable in other languages.For examples:

accommodation
advice
baggage
behaviour
bread
chaos
damage
furniture
information
luck
luggage
news
permission
progress
scenery
traffic
weather
work

These nouns are usually uncountable, so:
1) you cannot use a/an with them (you cannot say 'a bread', 'an advice' etc.) and
2) they are not normally plural (we do not say 'breads', 'advices' etc.):
• I'm going to buy some bread. or ... a loaf of bread. (not 'a bread')
• Enjoy your holiday! I hope you have good weather. (not 'a good weather')
• Where are you going to put all your furniture? (not 'furnitures')

News is uncountable, not plural:
• The news was very depressing. (not 'the news were')
Travel (noun) means 'travelling in general'. You cannot say 'a travel' to mean a journey or a trip:
• We had a very good journey. (not 'a good travel')


Compare these countable and uncountable nouns:

Countable
• I'm looking for a job
• What a beautiful view!
• It's a nice day today.
• We had a lot of bags and cases.
These chairs are mine.
• It was a good suggestion.

Uncountable
• I'm looking for work. (not 'a work')
• What beautiful scenery!
• It's nice weather today.
• We had a lot of luggage.
This furniture is mine.
• It was good advice.

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