Tricky uncountable nouns
Have you ever wondered whether you can count a particular noun or not? Count or not to count… that is a question! Nouns like news, information, advice, milk, furniture, luggage or hair are reallly tricky, so be careful when you make their plural forms!
These are nouns you can count! They are for things we see as individual items and not part of a greater whole. They can be used with indefinite articles ( a, an=one) and have a plural form.
A table– 2 tables, a chair – 4 chairs, a person -12 people, an apple- 10 apples
These are nouns for things we don’t see as individual items. They aren’t used with indefinite articles and don’t usually have plural forms.
Air, water, milk, luggage, accommodation, furniture, money
A lot of nouns can be both countable and uncountable depending on the situation and how we see them.
Some nouns are usually uncountable, like furniture, accommodation, music and luggage. Some are usually countable, like chair, room, song and suitcase. Most nouns, though, can be either countable or uncountable. It doesn’t depend on the noun but on the context, on how it is being viewed.
For example, many nouns for food and drink items such as cheese, water, milk, rice, sugar and butter are normally regarded as uncountable nouns. Nouns like these however can also be countable, particularly when we think of them as different kinds or varieties of a product.
Demarara, muscovado and caster are some of the different sugars we can use when baking.
or when those liquids and solid subtances are seen as induvidual items, packed in containers, etc. so we can actually count them:
Katie and I had two iced coffees at Starbucks yesterday.
Can I have 2 milks and 2 sugars with my coffee, please?
Measure words that change uncountable nouns into countable ones:
a loaf of bread
a piece of information
a slice of ham or bread
a bunch of grapes
a tube of toothpaste
a piece of advice, furniture, news
a kilo of flour, rice
a bowl of soup
a carton of juice, milk
a can of Coke
a carton of cereal
a bottle of milk
a cup of tea
a bar of chocolate
Words and phrases that go with countable nouns
many, a few, a number (of), several, fewer
Words and phrases that go with uncountable nouns:
much, a little, a bit (of), a great deal of, less
Words and phrases that go with both countable and uncountable nouns:
no, none, some, any, a lot (of), plenty (of), lots of
Practice makes perfect!
Now why not try to practise countable and uncountable nouns on our website? We have prepared listening exercies, gap filling , matching pairs, and many other exciting exercies for students at all levels of language competency.