Countable and Non-Countable Nouns
Countable nouns can be counted and have a singular and plural form. Non countable nouns cannot be counted so there is no plural form. Countable simply means able to be counted and uncountable nouns cannot be counted. Let us look at a few examples. Consider the word “water”. You can look outside after a rainfall and see water on the road, but you cannot see two water(s) or three water(s), just water. Don’t confuse this with two or three pools of water, or puddles of water. Pools and puddles are countable but water is not. You can have a number of glasses of water (glasses are countable), or pails of water (pails are countable). Much the same as oceans, seas and lakes are countable.
What about money? Is it countable or not? Money can be counted but only in the form of its various denominations. You may have one hundred dollars because dollars are countable, or you may have one hundred pesos because pesos are countable but you cannot have one hundred money or moneys because the word money is not countable.
There is a rarely used exception that I will explain later.
The countable or non-countable aspect of nouns can cause many problems. Some adjectives referring to the quantity of nouns (often called determiners) can be used only with countable nouns and some adjectives must be used with only non-countable nouns.
Below is a list of some often used quantity adjectives.
|Used with Countable Nouns||Used with Non-Countable Nouns||Used with Countable and Non-Countable Nouns|
|A (with singular nouns)
An (with singular nouns)
A couple (with plural nouns)
A few (with plural nouns)
Each (singular nouns)
Every (singular nouns)
Either (singular nouns)
Neither (singular nouns)
These (plural nouns)
Those (plural nouns)
|a little a bit of a good deal of
a great deal of
|A Lot of
Any (singular and plural nouns)
Enough (plural countable and non-countable)
Plenty of (plural)
Possessives (his, her, their etc.)
Some (singular and plural nouns)
The (singular and plural nouns)
This (singular nouns)
That (singular nouns)
What (single and plural countable and non-countable)
Which (single and plural countable and non-countable)
In case there is any confusion in the previous chart. Consider the following sentences keeping in mind that glasses of water are countable but water is uncountable.
With glasses of water (countable)
- I will drink a glass of water.
- I will drink a couple of glasses of water.
- I will drink a few glasses of water.
- I will drink many glasses of water.
With water (uncountable)
- I will drink a little water.
- I will drink a bit of water
- I will drink a good deal of water.
- I won’t drink much water. (“much” is used primarily in the negative or in a question).