Countable and Uncountable Nouns

The Basics

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There are many different types of nouns in English. Objects, ideas, and places can all be nouns. Every noun is either countable or uncountable.

Countable nouns are nouns you can count, and uncountable nouns are nouns you can't count. Countable nouns can take the singular or the plural form of a verb. Uncountable nouns always take the singular form of the verb. Study the rules and examples below.

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. For example, apple, book, government, student, island.

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. For example, 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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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Countable and Uncountable Nouns." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). Countable and Uncountable Nouns. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Countable and Uncountable Nouns." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).