Countable Nouns and Uncountable Nouns

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Countable Nouns and Uncountable Nouns :

Nouns like pen, chair, apple and house are countable. They are things that can be counted. We can say “one pen”, “three chairs”, “a dozen apples” and so on. Countable nouns have plural forms. They can be used with a / an and numbers (one, two, three).

Nouns like milk, sugar, rice, gold and honesty are uncountable. They are things that cannot be counted. For example, we CANNOT say “one milk”, “three milks” “five rices" and so on. They do not have plural forms. We cannot use a / an or number directly before uncountable nouns.

As the following table shows, some determiners go with both countable and uncountable nouns, while some determiners go with any one kind of nouns.

1. a book
2. some books
3. some milk
4. the book
5. the books
6. the milk
7. this book
8. this milk
9. my book
10. my books
11. my milk
12. five books
13. several books
14. a lot of books
15. a lot of milk
16. not many books
17. not much milk
18. all the books
19. all the milk
20. enough books
21. enough milk

Names of substances (butter, wheat, rice, petrol, air) and abstract nouns (happiness, anger, freedom, courage) are uncountable nouns in most cases.

Some nouns which are uncountable in English may be countable in many other languages including your own. Here is a list of such nouns.

1. Accommodation
2. Advice
3. Baggage
4. Bread
5. Cash
6. Equipment
7. Furniture
8. Gossip
9. homework
10. housework
11. information
12. litter
13. luck
14. luggage
15. money
16. news
17. permission
18. pollution
19. rain
20. rice
21. rubbish
22. scenery
23. traffic
24. transport
25. travel
26. weather
27. work (in a general sense)

Keep in mind that the above are uncountable nouns and be careful not to use them with a / an or in the plural.

Note also that the noun PAPER (in the sense of writing material) is uncountable in English.

Wrong : She gave me an advice.
Right: She gave me some advice.

Wrong : This is a good news.
Right: This is good news.

Wrong : They have sold all their furnitures.
Right: They have sold all their furniture.

Wrong : What a hot weather!
Right: What hot weather!

Wrong : I have an important work to do.
Right: I have some important work to do.

If you are thinking of one separate item, a / an may be used by putting a partitive in front of the uncountable nouns.

1. a piece of advice
2. a piece of information
3. an item of information
4. a piece of news
5. a piece of furniture
6. an article of furniture
7. a piece of furniture
8. a piece of work
9. a bit of work
10. a piece of paper
11. a sheet of paper

So also….

a few pieces of advice
several items of news
ten sheets of paper

In some cases we have a separate countable noun and a separate uncountable noun referring to the same area of meaning.


1. a loaf…..bread
2. a meal…
3. a job…
4. a poem…..poetry
5. a scene……scenery

Some nouns can be both countable and uncountable.

Paper is in short supply. (Uncountable = material used for writing)

“The Hindu” is a good paper. (Countable = newspaper)

He doesn’t care much about dress. (Uncountable = clothing in general).

Dresses are sold here. (Countable = garment worn by a woman or girl)

Rubber is elastic. (Uncountable = a substance)

I have a rubber. (Countable = something used for rubbing out pencil marks)

This is made of glass. (Uncountable = a substance)

Will you give a glass of water? (Countable = an article made of glass)

I have been wearing glasses for two years. (Countable = spectacles)

She has long hair. (Uncountable = all the hair on one’s head)

There is a hair in my soup. (Countable = one single hair)

Names for drinks are usually uncountable nouns, but they can be countable when we are offering or ordering drinks.

Would you like a coffee? a cup of coffee)
Three teas, please. (= three cups of tea)

Work can be countable in certain meanings.

For example, we say….

the works of Shakespeare (works = books)
cement works (works _ factory)

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