Wednesday, 7 December 2011

English Grammar Rules - Countable vs. Uncountable Nouns

A) Most nouns have singular and plural forms. They are countable nouns.
e.g. One letter, two letters
  • There is a letter on the table for you. (singular)
  • There are letters on the table for you. (plural)
B) Some nouns only have one form. They are uncountable nouns.
e.g. Money
  • There is no money in my bank account.
  • There is a lot of money in my bank account.
C) Many uncountable nouns refer to substances:
e.g. Chocolate, water, coffee, milk, sugar, salt, cheese, bread, rice, wood, glass, plastic, soap, toothpaste.
  • Do you have any chocolate?
  • The milk is sour - let's make cheese.
  • Rice is only edible when it has been cooked.
D) Many uncountable nouns refer to abstract ideas or emotions.
e.g. love, sadness, happiness, education, knowledge, and grammar.
  • Money can't buy love.
  • We like to experience happiness.
  • This education is priceless.
E) You can use a/an with singular countable nouns.
e.g. an umbrella, a wheel, a mistake.
  • It's raining so I need an umbrella.
  • I made a mistake.
  • This is a job for superman.
F) You can use plural countable nouns alone.
e.g. apples, bees, clouds.
  • There are clouds in the sky today.
  • There are bees making honey.
  • We eat apples for breakfast.
G) You can't use an article with an uncountable noun.
e.g. time, sand, electricity.
  • We need electricity to use our heater.
  • I lost track of time and we stayed up very late.
  • The beaches in Brazil have very nice sand.
H) It is very common in English to use some / any with plural nouns and uncountable nouns (Refer to grammar notes on Some Any for more details).
e.g. They don't listen to any advice.
  • We don't have any toys for the children.
  • There are many lessons in life, this is just one more.
  • It is important to have some knowledge of grammar.
I) There are a range of nouns that are uncountable in English but are countable in other languages.
These include: accommodation, advice, baggage, behaviour, bread, chaos, damage, furniture, information, luck, luggage, news, permission, progress, scenery, traffic, weather and work.
J) For comparison purposes, look at these sentences:
I'm looking for a job.I'm looking for work.
What a beautiful view!What beautiful scenery!
It's a nice day today.It's nice weather today.
We had a lot of bags and suitcases.We had a lot of luggage.
These chairs are mine.This furniture is mine.
It was a good suggestion.It was good advice.

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