Nouns: Countable VS uncountable nouns

1st Part
Proper and common nouns

2nd Part
Countable vs uncountable nouns

3nd Part
Collective and compound nouns

Grammar in use

  • Topic : Countable vs. Uncountable Nouns
  • Skills : Grammar


What is a countable noun?

Can I count animals?
Yes: 1 animal, 2 animals, 3 animals etc.

What is an uncountable noun?

Can I count water?
No, I cannot

Countable nouns can be counted, so they can be used in the singular or in the plural.
a cat / 2 cats
1 key / 3 keys
the child / a lot of children

Uncountable nouns are either always singular or always plural. We can never use „a/an‟ before them.
Water is a precious resource. → It is a precious resource.
Her hair is blond. →It is blond.
The police are on their way.→ They are on their way.
These people were very nice.→ They were very nice.

Some nouns can be countable in some cases, and uncountable in other cases.
Coffee please! (uncountable)
coffees please! (countable)

There are real homonyms, but their definitions are different:
people (plural of “a person‟) / a people (a population)
glass (material) / a glass (a container)
business (work) / a business (a company)

Pre-determinerCentral DeterminerPost-determinerNoun

Language Tip: Quantities with Uncountable Nouns
Because we cannot say „a/an‟ before an uncountable noun, we have to use phrases such as „a piece of‟ in order to express the singular.

I will give you a piece of advice.
This table is the most important piece of furniture in this house.
She is asking for a slice of bread.
I bought a bar of soap for the guest bathroom.
I would like a glass of water.
Joe is bringing a bottle of orange juice.

For quantities greater than 1, we can use: little, a little, much, a lot of, etc. (see lesson on Quantifiers).

Answer the following questions