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Countable and Uncountable nouns
Filed in English Grammar
Countable nouns are the names of separate objects, people, ideas etc which can be counted. They have plurals.
Examples are: dog, tree, girl, book, occasion and link
We can use numbers and the article a/an with countable nouns.
Uncountable or mass nouns are the names of materials, liquids, abstract qualities, collections and other things which we do not see as separate objects. Most uncountable nouns are singular with no plurals. Examples are: wheat, sand, weather, water, wool, milk
We cannot use numbers with uncountable nouns. They are also not normally used with the article a/an.
Here is a list of common words which are usually uncountable in English. Corresponding countable expressions are given in brackets.
accommodation (countable - a place to live)
Countable or uncountable
Sometimes it is not easy to see whether a noun is countable or uncountable. For instance, travel is normally uncountable, while journey is countable. It is impossible to give complete details. The following rules, however, should help.
The names of illnesses are usually uncountable in English. Examples are: chickenpox, measles, cancer, diabetes, flu etc.
But note that the words for some minor ailments are uncountable. Examples are: a cold, a headache
Many nouns have both countable and uncountable uses, sometimes with a difference of meaning.
Words for materials are usually uncountable. But note that the same word is often used as countable noun to refer to something made of the material.
Many abstract nouns are uncountable when used in a general sense. The same noun can be countable in a particular sense.
Plural uncountable nouns
Some uncountable nouns are plural. They have no singular forms with the same meaning, and cannot be used with numbers. Examples are: trousers, jeans, pyjamas, pants, scissors, spectacles, glasses, arms, goods, customs, groceries, clothes and thanks
Other plural uncountable nouns include the expressions the British, the Dutch, the English, the French, the Irish, the Spanish and the Welsh.
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