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, bread, butter, dirt, flour, money, fun, gas, grass, gunpowder, ice, ink, juice, luggage, music, news, oil, pepper, rice, sand, soil, steam, sugar, vapour, water, wheat, wine
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.
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.
Nouns can be countable or uncountable. It depends on how they are used.
- 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)
- You had a bad experience on that trip. (Countable noun)
I have no previous experience of this type of work.
- We bought a big fish and a roast chicken in the supermarket. (Countable noun)
We had some fish for lunch and chicken for dinner.
- As the group was large, we decided not to clink glasses. (Countable noun)
His car windows are made of bulletproof glass. (Uncountable noun)
- I need to press my shirt with an iron before we go. (Countable noun)
The heavy chains are made of iron. (Uncountable noun)
- We could see the bright lights of the city from that hill. (Countable noun)
Light emitted by a star takes light-years to reach us. (Uncountable noun)
- He never missed the cartoon section in the papers (newspapers) every day. (Countable noun)
She can fold paper into shapes that look like dinosaurs.
- I was robbed two times in one week. (Countable noun)
It was a waste of precious time to watch him speak. (Uncountable noun)
- They consider her book a definitive work on penguins. (Countable noun)
We're going to have some renovation work done on the house. (Uncountable noun)
Uncountable nouns include group of things
Uncountable nouns may refer to a group of things with each of the things being an individual part. They cannot be used with numbers such as a/an, one, or pluralized with +s.
Mail: letters, postcards, bills, packages, parcels, etc.
Not: I received a mail today.
Furniture: tables, chairs, beds, desks, cupboard
Not: The family bought a furniture yesterday.
Fruit: apples, oranges, apple, bananas, mangoes and papaya
Not: We want to buy two (tropical) fruits today, some mangoes and a papaya.
Jewelry: rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, brooches
Countable and Uncountable Nouns are used with the following:a
|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