Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Countable nouns can be counted and have a singular and plural form. Uncountable 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 many 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 uncountable aspect of nouns can cause many problems. Some adjectives referring to the quantity of a noun (often called determiners) can be used only with countable nouns and some adjectives must be used with only uncountable nouns.
Below is a list of some-often used quantity adjectives.
|Used with Countable Nouns||Used with Uncountable Nouns||Used with Countable and Uncountable 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).
Non-Countable Nouns ending with an “s”
The fact that Non-countable nouns that end in “s” are sometimes singular and sometimes considered plural can cause students of English much confusion. However, if you look at the lists you will be able to see what types of nouns are considered singular and what types are considered plural. Remember that the verb must agree in number (singular or plural) with the noun.
|Considered Singular Nouns
Diseases, and educational courses
|Considered Plural Nouns
Objects with two physical parts, usually clothing and tools.
Glasses (for eyes)
From the previous chart.
- Physics is important.
- Scissors are important.
Important to Remember. When we use the phrase “a pair of” we change the plural nouns to the singular. So, we say,
- Those glasses are nice. (We use “those” and “are” for plurals).
- That pair of glasses is nice. (We use “that” and “is” for singular).