Countable and uncountable nouns

Count and noncount nouns

Count nouns

A count noun can be counted with numbers: one chair, two chairs, or five chairs. A count noun can be preceded by a/an in the singular form: a bag, an apple. A count noun has a plural form ending in s/es: chairs, churches, vases.

Noncount nouns

A noncount noun can't be counted with numbers: furniture, salt, sugar, money, jewelry, homework, four, sand. A noncount noun is not preceded by a/an. And finally, a noncount noun does not have a plural form (no final s)

Noncount nouns

Noncount nouns usually refer to a whole group of things that is made up of many individual parts, a whole category made up of different varieties. For example, furniture is a noncount noun; it describes a whole category of things: tables, beds, chairs, etc.

Mail, fruit and jewelry are other examples of nouncount nouns that refer to a whole category made up of individual parts. Mail is a noncount noun, and it is made up of some count nouns such as letters, postcards, bills, etc. Fruit is a noncount noun which is made up of some count nouns including oranges, apples, pears, bananas, etc. And jewelry is a noncount noun; it is made up of necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets, etc.

  • clothing
  • food
  • fruit
  • furniture
  • jewelry
  • mail
  • money
  • scenery
  • stuff 
  • traffic
  • homework
  • housework
  • advice
  • information
  • history
  • literature
  • music
  • poetry
  • grammar
  • corn
  • dirt
  • flour
  • hair
  • pepper
  • rice
  • salt
  • sand
  • sugar
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • English 
  • German
  • Indonesian
  • Spanish
  • etc

a. Liquids

  • coffee
  • milk
  • oil
  • soup
  • water
  • tea

b. Gases

  • air
  • pollution
  • smog
  • smoke


c. Solids and semi-solids

  • bread
  • butter
  • cheese
  • ice
  • beef
  • meat
  • chicken
  • fish
  • chalk
  • glass
  • gold
  • iron
  • paper
  • soap
  • toothpaste
  • wood


d. Abstractions

  • beauty
  • courage
  • experience
  • fun
  • generosity
  • happiness
  • health
  • help
  • honesty
  • ignorance
  • kindness
  • knowledge
  • luck
  • patience
  • progress
  • selfishness
  • time
  • violence

e. Things that occur in nature

  • weather
  • rain
  • snow
  • darkness
  • light
  • sunshine
  • thunder
  • lightening

Using several, a lot of, many/much, a few/a little

Several is used only with countable nouns.

A lot of is used with both count and uncount nouns.

Many is used with count nouns, and much is used with uncount nouns.

A few is used with count nouns, and a little is used with uncount nouns.

Nouns that can be count or noncount

Quite a few nouns can be used as either count or uncount nouns.

  • Glass

Windows are made of glass. (uncountable)

Can I have a glass of water? (countable)

  • Hair

Sara has black hair. (uncountable)

There was a red hair on his jacket. (countable)

  • Iron

Iron is a metal. (uncountable)

I pressed my scarf with an iron. (countable)

  • Light

I opened the curtain to let in some light. (uncountable)

Please turn off the lights. (countable; here lights means lamps)

  • Paper

I need some paper to write a note. (uncountable)

I bought a paper. (countable; here it means newspaper)

I wrote a paper to the professor. (countable)

  • Time

How much time do you have? (uncountable)

How many times have you been to Canada? (countable)

  • Work

I have some work to do right now. (uncountable)

The painting was a work of art. (countable)

  • Coffee

I had some coffee in the morning. (uncountable)

Three coffees, please. (countable)

  • Chicken/fish

I ate some chicken/some fish last night. (uncountable)

She drew a picture of a fish/ a chicken. (countable)

  • Experience

I haven’t had much experience with phones. (uncountable; it means I don’t have much knowledge or skill in using phones.)

I had many interesting experiences when I was there. (countable; many interesting events happened to me.)

Using units of measure with noncount nouns

To mention a specific quantity of a nouncount noun, speakers use units of measure. A unit of measure usually describes the container ( a cup of, a bottle of), the amount (a pound of, a quart of), and the shape ( a bar of, a sheet of paper)

  • I drank two cups of coffee.
  • I ate one piece of toast.
  • I had a bottle of water.
  • I bought a bar of soap.
  • I got a jar of jam.
  • I had a bowl of soup.
  • She bought a can of olives.
  • I had a box of crackers.
  • I drank a glass of herbal tea.
  • She had a bowl of cereal for breakfast.
  • Can I have a slice of cheese?
  • I need a piece of paper.
  • Please buy a bag of flour.
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