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Countable and Uncountable Nouns

The Basics

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What are countable nouns?

Countable nouns are individual objects, people, places, etc. which can be counted. Nouns are considered content words meaning they provide the people, things, ideas, etc. about which we speak. Nouns are one of the eight parts of speech.

books, Italians, pictures, stations, men, etc.

A countable noun can be both singular - a friend, a house, etc. - or plural - a few apples, lots of trees, etc.

Use the singular form of the verb with a singular countable noun:

There is a book on the table.
That student is excellent!

Use the plural form of the verb with a countable noun in the plural:

There are some students in the classroom.
Those houses are very big, aren't they?

What are uncountable nouns?

Uncountable nouns are materials, concepts, information, etc. which are not individual objects and can not be counted.

information, water, understanding, wood, cheese, etc.

Uncountable nouns are always singular. Use the singular form of the verb with uncountable nouns:

There is some water in that pitcher.
That is the equipment we use for the project.

Adjectives with Countable and Uncountable Nouns.

Use a/an with countable nouns preceded by an adjective(s):

Tom is a very intelligent young man.
I have a beautiful grey cat.

Do not use a/an (indefinite articles) with uncountable nouns preceded by an adjective(s):

That is very useful information.
There is some cold beer in the fridge.

Some uncountable nouns in English are countable in other languages. This can be confusing! Here is a list of some of the most common, easy to confuse uncountable nouns.

accommodation
advice
baggage
bread
equipment
furniture
garbage
information
knowledge
luggage
money
news
pasta
progress
research
travel
work

Obviously, uncountable nouns (especially different types of food) have forms that express plural concepts. These measurements or containers are countable:

water - a glass of water
equipment - a piece of equipment
cheese - a slice of cheese

Here are some of the most common containers / quantity expressions for these uncountable nouns:

accommodation - a place to stay
advice - a piece of advice
baggage - a piece of baggage
bread - a slice of bread, a loaf of bread
equipment - a piece of equipment
furniture - a piece of furniture
garbage - a piece of garbage
information - a piece of information
knowledge - a fact
luggage - a piece of luggage, a bag, a suitcase
money - a note, a coin
news - a piece of news
pasta - a plate of pasta, a serving of pasta
research - a piece of research, a research project
travel - a journey, a trip
work - a job, a position

Here are some more common uncountable food types with their container / quantity expressions:

liquids (water, beer, wine, etc.) - a glass, a bottle, a jug of water, etc.
cheese - a slice, a chunk, a piece of cheese
meat - a piece, a slice, a pound of meat
butter - a bar of butter
ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard - a bottle of, a tube of ketchup, etc.

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