English Grammar and Exercises for ESL learners.
(countable, uncountable and plural nouns)
Countable nouns are individual objects, people, places and things that can be counted.
For example, books, houses, Americans, cats, dogs, cars, etc.
A countable noun can be singular (a book) or plural (two books)
The singular form of a verb is used with a singular countable noun : the apple is red
The plural form of a verb is used with a plural countable noun : the apples are red.
Uncountable or mass nouns are substances, concepts, information, materials, etc.
which are not individual objects and cannot be counted. They have no plural form.
For example :
- Substances : milk, cream, sugar, bread, flour, water, wine
- Concepts : hope, peace, beauty, entertainment, freedom
- Feelings and qualities : anger, joy, honesty, pride
- Activities : homework, sleep, surveillance
- used with no indefinite article (a/an) : Drink water if you are thirsty. (not: a water)
- take a singular verb. :
Water is safe to drink in this
some/ a piece of/ a drop of/ a glass of/ a slice of, etc.
- some milk / a drop of milk
- a piece of cheese/cake/pizza
- a slice of bread
- a glass of water
- a piece of advice/information/news/luggage
- a news item
Common uncountable nouns :
advice, accommodation, baggage, bread, cheese, equipment, furniture,
happiness, information, knowledge, literature, luggage, money, music,
news, pasta, progress, research, sadness, travel, water, work ...
Examples of use :
- Water is a necessity.
- Could I have a slice of bread please?
- Have some cream with your strawberries.
- That's an interesting piece of information.
- Here is the latest news.
Some plural nouns have no singular form.
Examples are : earnings, (reading) glasses, trousers, shorts, scissors, binoculars.
These nouns take a plural verb :
- The company's earnings are increasing every year.
- These scissors are rusty.
a pair of is used :
- A pair of trousers
- A pair of scissors.
For example : news, gymnastics, athletics, economics, physics, politics
- Athletics is a competitive sport.
- The news is not very good I'm afraid.
- They say politics is a complicated business.
- Gymnastics is fun to watch.
- Linguistics is the study of language.
- Physics is a difficult subject for many students.
See also: collective and compound nouns