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 English Grammar for ESL learners 


Countable, uncountable and plural nouns in English.

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.

Some examples:

Liquids and gases: milk, cream, water, coffee, smoke, air, oxygen
Solid and granular substances: bread, cheese, meat, rice, sugar, salt, sand
Materials: wood, plastic, glass, paper
Concepts/abstract ideas: hope, peace, beauty, entertainment, freedom
Feelings and qualities: joy, anger, efficiency, honesty, pride, happiness
Activities: homework, sleep, surveillance, work 

Uncountable or mass nouns are :
  • 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 area.
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.
To talk about a certain quantity, we use :
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
Examples of words used to quantify uncountable nouns:
Food Liquids General
A bag of flour/oats
A bar of chocolate
A bowl of rice/cereal/fruit
A carton of cream/yogurt
A clove of garlic
A cube of ice
A grain of rice
A handful of olives/nuts
A head of lettuce
A jar of jam/honey
A knob/pat of butter
A loaf of bread
A lump of sugar
A pinch of salt
A scoop of ice-cream
A slice of bread/cake
A sprig of parsley/thyme
A square of chocolate
A stalk of celery/rhubarb
A stick of cinnamon
A drop of milk/rain
A bottle of wine
A bowl of soup
A can of coke/beer
A cup of tea
A dash of lemon juice
A dose of medicine
A litre/gallon of petrol
A glass of water/wine
A jug/pitcher of water
A mouthful of coffee
A pint of milk/beer
A pot of tea
A pool of blood
A quart (2 pints) of milk
A shot of vodka
A sip of water/tea/beer
A spoonful of medicine
A thimble of whisky
A trickle of water
A bar/cake of soap
A bottle of perfume
A ball of cotton
A cloud of smoke
A coat of nail polish
A dab of perfume
A flash of lightning
A piece of news
An item of clothing
A piece of luggage
A pile of money
A ray of sunshine
A roll of toilet paper
A sheet of paper
A stick of chalk
A tube of toothpaste
A speck of dust
A stick of deodorant
A string of pearls
A stroke of luck

Plural nouns with no singular form:
Some plural nouns have no singular form.
Examples are : earnings, (reading) glasses, trousers, savings, shorts, scissors, binoculars.

These nouns take a plural verb :
  • The company's earnings are increasing every year.
  • Our savings are kept in the bank
  • These scissors are rusty.
To refer to one item of clothing, tools or instruments which consist of two parts, a pair of is used :
  • A pair of trousers/shorts/jeans/pyjamas.
  • A pair of scissors/clippers/pliers.
Nouns ending in 's' that take a singular verb:
Some nouns appear to be plural in form but take a singular verb.
For example : news, gymnastics, athletics, economics, physics, politics, series
  • 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.
  • The new adventure series on television is very exciting.

See also collective and compound nouns   |   plural form of nouns

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