What are countable and uncountable nouns?
It is important to learn the difference between countable and uncountable nouns in English, as this will help us to identify the correct determiners and verbs to use in the sentence.
Countable nouns are nouns that we can count. So we can count the separate units of the noun. Countable nouns have singular and plural forms.
A singular noun refers to one person, place, or thing e.g. apple. 🍎
A plural noun refers to more than one person, place, or thing e.g. apples. 🍎 🍎
- Dog ⟶ Dogs
- Book ⟶ Books
- Fly ⟶ Flies
- Strawberry ⟶ Strawberries
- Shop ⟶ Shops
- Tomato ⟶ Tomatoes
We can ask about the quantity of the noun by asking, “How many …. are there?”.
For example: How many apples are there? As you can see in the picture, there are two apples.
The noun apple is singular. We can make the plural form by adding the letter s.
E.g. Apple ➜ Apples
The noun mango is singular. We can make the plural form by adding the letters es.
E.g. Mango ➜ Mangoes
It is important to note that there are different plural spelling rules.
These rules depend on the letter a noun ends in.
Regular nouns ⟶ ✔︎ Add ‘s’
E.g. Dog – Dogs
Words ending in s, sh, ch, or x ⟶ ✔︎ Add ‘es’
E.g. Peach – Peaches
Click here to learn about all the plural spelling rules.
There are a few rules we need to know about when using countable nouns.
✔︎ We use a number, a or an before a countable noun e.g. an octopus.
✔︎ Singular verbs are used with singular countable nouns e.g. That is a cute dog.
✔︎ Plural verbs are used with plural countable nouns e.g. They are cute dogs.
✔︎ We can quantify countable nouns using words like: few, many, some, a lot of etc. E.g. There are a lot of apples in the basket.
- Tim has two cats.
- She has many friends.
- He has ten pencils.
- I bought a laptop.
- They are nice trainers.
Uncountable nouns are nouns that we can’t count. They are always singular. So we can’t count the separate units of the noun. Uncountable nouns can be concepts, abstract ideas, or substances.
We can ask about the quantity of the noun by asking, “How much….?”. For example: How much cheese is in the fridge?
The noun cheese is always singular. It does not have a plural form because we can’t count cheese.
There are a few rules we need to know about when using uncountable nouns.
✘ We don’t use a number, a or an before an uncountable noun e.g.
There is a cheese.
✔︎ Singular verbs are always used with uncountable nouns e.g. There is some cheese.
✘ We don’t use plural verbs with uncountable nouns e.g.
There are some cheese.
✔︎ We can quantify uncountable nouns using words like: some, much, little, a lot of etc. E.g. There is some cheese in the fridge.
- Tina ate a lot of rice.
- She added a teaspoon of salt to the pot.
- He has a lot of money.
- I would like some milk.
- There is not much information about the hotel.
It’s important to remember that there are many cases where we can use a number, a or an before an uncountable noun and we can use a plural verb. This rule applies when we use another countable noun. For example, There are two slices of bread. 🍞 In this example bread is an uncountable noun however slices is a countable noun therefore we can use the plural verb ‘are’.
Countable and uncountable nouns
Some nouns are both countable and uncountable. The meaning changes depending on the context.
For example chicken can refer to an animal 🐓 or it can refer to the meat 🍗 .
➜ There are three chickens on the farm. (countable)
➜ I ate some chicken for dinner. (uncountable)