Countable nouns (also called count nouns) are nouns that can be counted (apple, orange) and can be therefore be pluralized (apples, oranges). Uncountable nouns (also known as non-count or mass nouns) are amounts of something, which we cannot count (gunpowder, rice).

Examples of countable nouns: babies, cakes, dogs, fingers, gowns, huts, ideas, lies, owls, papers, pencils, suitcases
Examples of uncountable nouns: air, ash, barley, butter, dirt, flour, money, gas, gunpowder, ice, ink, juice, luggage, oil, pepper, sand, soil, steam, sugar, vapour, water, wheat
 

So how do we know whether a noun is countable or uncountable?

The noun is countable:
if we can use the indefinite artice a/an before it.
  • I own a car. / I play with an ostrich.
if we can use the word many (not much), more, or most to describe it.
  • She has many friends. (Not: She has much friends.)
if we can express its quantity by using a number before it.
  • I have five uncles. You have two grandmothers.
if it takes on singular as well as plural forms.
  • an owl / some owls / fifty owls
 
The noun is uncountable:

if a/an is not normally used in front of it.

  • He is eating some rice. (Not: He is eating a rice.) Rice is an uncountable noun, so some (which can be used for both countable and uncountable nouns) is used with it.
if the word much can be correctly used before it.
  • How much glue do we need? (Not: How many glue do we need?)
if it is not possible for us to count it. However, we can make it countable by having a quantity for it.
  • I have just bought two cartons or litres/liters of milk. (Not: I have just bought two milk.)
if it takes only a singular form.
  • some ice (Not: some ices) / some ink (Not: some inks) / some soup (Not: some soups)
 

Some nouns can be countable or uncountable. It depends on how they are used.

Examples:

  • There are two hairs on the snooker table. (Countable noun)
    You think my hair looks nice? (Uncountable noun)
  • You can boil an egg. (Countable noun)
    I like to eat egg. (Uncountable noun as it refers to egg in general, not one or two eggs.)
  • Let's stop for a coffee on our way to the library. (Countable noun)
    She thinks she drinks too much coffee. (Uncountable noun)

 

Countable and Uncountable Nouns are used with the following:a

Countable Noun Uncountable Noun
a, an, a few, several, many, some, a little, much, some,
plenty of, a lot of, a large number of plenty of, a lot of, a large amount of, a great deal of
 
 
Refer to List 2 - Uncountable Nouns made Countable for more examples.