Countable and uncountable nouns

 In Grammar help, Quick tips

A herd of elephants

Depending on your native language, one thing which can be difficult about English is the difference between countable and uncountable nouns. Just remember that countable nouns have a single form (dog; person) and a plural form (dogs; people), and we can count them using numbers, for example “I have a dog”, “she has three dogs”.

On the other hand, uncountable nouns do not have a plural form, and we cannot count them using numbers. They are usually things which are too small to count easily (like sugar), things we can’t see (like electricity and air), ideas (like information and music), and so on.

When we want to say “how much” of an uncountable noun, we have to use words such as some, a bit of, a lot of, or we need to use a measurement like cup, kg, litre; for example, “I bought some sugar”, “I bought a bag of sugar”, “I bought a kg of sugar”.

See the table below for some examples of countable and uncountable nouns:

CountableUncountable
bananawater
sandwichrice
hamburgerbread
dogtea

One thing to be careful about is that for some things – especially drinks – we use uncountable nouns as countable nouns. For example in the sentence “I drank too many coffees this morning”, too many coffees actually means too many cups of coffee; so, “I drank too many coffees this morning” is a short and easy way of saying “I drank too many cups of coffee this morning”. Of course, we can also just say “I drank too much coffee this morning”. This is a little confusing, so good luck and don’t drink too much coffee while you’re studying!

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