What is a Countable Noun and an Uncountable Noun?

Introduction:

‘What is a countable noun and an uncountable noun?’ is the question of almost all English learners. In this lesson, we will learn this with examples so that we can use countable and uncountable nouns correctly at the time of our speaking and writing. When you run across a new noun, you should check out if it is a countable or uncountable noun.

So far we know that nouns are of five types. They are Proper Noun, Common Noun, Collective Noun, Material Noun, and Abstract Noun. Of these five types of nouns, almost all the Proper Nouns, Common Nouns, and Collective Nouns are Countable. Material Nouns and Abstract Nouns are Uncountable. To understand countable nouns and uncountable nouns, this basic point must be well remembered.

What is a countable noun? 

Nouns that can be counted are called countable nouns. We can count persons, objects, animals, etc. So, they are countable. These nouns have two distinct characteristics.

First characteristic:

The first feature or characteristic is that these nouns can be counted by numbers and can be used as singular (singular) and plural (plural).

Example:

  • Table – tables
  • Pen – pens  
  • Student – students
  • Man – men
  • computer – computers

Example in sentences?

  • There is a pen on the table.
  • There are two books on the table.
  • He has got three sisters and two younger brothers.
  • I bought a storybook on English Grammar.
  • The book has 200 pages in it.
  • I have a pen, a few books, a notebook, a table calendar, and a laptop on my desk.

The second characteristic:

The second characteristic of a countable noun is that when we want to use this noun in the singular form we must use a determiner like a/an/the, my/his/her/our, this/that, etc. before it. Try to understand this by the following examples.

  • Incorrect: There is pen on the table.
  • Correct: There is a pen on the table.
  • Incorrect: It is shirt.
  • Correct: It is my shirt.

Example sentences:

  • Your book is on the table.
  • A tiger is an animal.
  • There is a boy at the door.
  • Where is my book?
  • They have one child only.
  • I will read a story.
  • I have a computer.

Another important thing we should bear in mind and that is: singular and plural forms of some nouns are the same. They are:

Deer, Sheep, Aircraft, Offspring, etc. Notice how the singular and plural of countable nouns are used in the following sentences.

  • This is a beautiful aircraft.
  • Bangladesh has bought ten aircraft from the USA.
  • I saw a deer in the forest.
  • They saw several deer in the forest.

What is an uncountable noun? 

A noun that has one form with no plural and what names something that we cannot count with numbers.

 Uncountable nouns have one main characteristic:

  • They cannot be counted by numbers, so this kind of noun does not have a plural form.

This means that all the material nouns and abstract nouns are uncountable because we cannot count them by numbers. so they are not all uncountable nouns.

In light of this feature, all the nouns that are considered uncountable nouns in English are:

  • Fluid: water, milk, oil, ink, soup, tea, etc.
  • Gases: smoke, oxygen, air, etc.
  • Natural things: heat, sunshine, darkness, weather.
  • Materials too small to be counted: sugar, rice, salt, sand, etc.
  • Solid substances: earth, bread, cotton, furniture, etc.
  • Academic subjects: English, geography, mathematics, biology, etc.
  • Abstractions that we cannot touch or see: love, hate, courage, sympathy, beauty, etc.
  • Intangible things: information, advice, work, knowledge, exercise, etc.
  • Diseases: corona, malaria, diabetes, influenza, etc.
  • Languages: English, Germany, French, etc.
  • Games: cricket, football, hockey, tennis, soccer, etc.
  • Nouns with ‘-ing’ endings: reading, swimming, running, jumping, etc.

Since uncountable nouns do not have a plural form, the nouns denoting a / an, one, two, another, both, each, few, several, many, these, those, etc., cannot be used before all these nouns.

However, before an uncountable noun, as per our need, we can use such words as, the, some, any, this, that, all, enough, little, much, no, a lot of, lots of, my, her, our, their, etc.

Example:

  • Will you please give me some advice so that I can speak English?
  • There is a lot of furniture in this office room.
  • I need some more drinking water.
  • I need some gas for my car.
  • We need a lot of money to start an online business.
  • Do you want some milk in your coffee?
  • I will go to the grocery shop to buy some rice, bacon, cream, and oil.
  • Do you drink the coffee that I served you in the morning?
  • Can you please check the salt of this curry?
  • How much time do you need to finish the assignment?
  • Students need some more time to finish their homework.

There is another thing to understand about uncountable nouns, which is: these nouns are the kind of substances, ideas, or fantasies, which we cannot divide individually and we cannot ‘count’ them. For example, we cannot count ‘milk’. But we can count ‘bottle milk’ or ‘liter milk’. Similarly, we cannot ‘count’ tea or coffee, but if we say ‘one cup of tea’ or one cup of coffee then we can count it. Try to understand this by the following examples.

  • Bring me a cup of soup.
  • He has only a piece of fruit for lunch.
  • Do you want a glass of water?
  • She bought three bottles of water and five boxes of rice.
  • He gave me two pieces of advice: eat less and exercise more.
  • My teacher gave me a word of advice.
  • He wanted a slice of bread from me.
  • They bought two pieces of furniture.
  • William wanted a pinch of salt.
  • For his car, he took a liter of petrol.
  • I bought two liters of milk.
  • My wife bought a pound of / two pounds of butter.
  • They gave me a piece of information.
  • He has been suffering from an attack of influenza.
  • It was a bit of luck that he passed the test.

I think I have been able to give an idea about countable nouns and uncountable nouns. Even then some countable nouns and uncountable nouns have to be memorized because these often create confusion whether that is countable or uncountable.

Countable nounUncountable noun
AppleFruit 
BagBaggage
Battery Electricity 
Chair / TableFurniture
CoinMoney
CarTraffic
ExperimentResearch
IdeaKnowledge
JobWork
JourneyTravel
ProblemTrouble
ReportInformation / News
StoryPoetry
SuitcaseLuggage
TipAdvice
ToolEquipment
ViewScenery

Subject-Verb Agreement:

By this time, you understood that with countable nouns, you can write sentences with singular or plural verbs.

Example:

  • A student is studying English Grammar.
  • The students are studying English Grammar.

On the other hand, an uncountable noun is always considered singular and should take only a singular verb.

Example:

  • The furniture you bought yesterday is not made of good wood.
  • My luggage contains some books and a laptop.

Uncountable nouns ending with ‘-s’ may create a problem for learners of English. Remember these nouns have plural endings, but they take a singular verb.

Example:

  • The news which you have heard is not true.
  • Mathematics is a good subject for brilliant students.

In addition to these, always remember that all uncountable nouns related to clothes are plural uncountables. They are not used in the singular form or with numbers. So, we cannot say: ‘a shorts’ or ‘two shorts’. Rather we should say:

  • Will you please lend me a pair of shorts for a day?

To summarize what we learned today: a noun that can be counted by putting numbers before them is a countable noun, and a noun that cannot be counted by putting numbers before them is called an uncountable noun. But then again, many things that can be counted in English are considered uncountable nouns. e.g., fish, fruit, etc. So, when you run across a new noun, you should check out if it is a countable or uncountable noun.

This is all for today, and thanks for learning with me.

Rezaul Karim

English learner, content writer, and tech enthusiast.

Rezaul Karim

Hi, my name is Rezaul Karim. I am an English teacher and founder of LearnEnglishWithRezaul.com. I work with non-native English learners to help them understand English grammar from basic to intermediate. I also help them improve their conversation skills, communication ability and to reduce their accent. I hope you may like my posts on this website.

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