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Countable and uncountable

Nouns
Practice with the exercises:
Exercise 1 Exercise 2

1. Countable and uncountable nouns

COUNTABLE

Countable nouns are those elements that can be counted one by one using numbers.

3 magazines
UNCOUNTABLE

Uncountable nouns are those elements that we cannot count using numbers but we can count using quantifiers or partitives.

Sand
  Nouns
COUNTABLE Apple / apples Monkey / monkeys Chair / chairs
School / schools Tree / trees Film / films
UNCOUNTABLE Food Milk Money
Sugar Time Weather

2. How are countable and uncountable nouns used?

  • Countable nouns have singular and plural form. When they are in singular, they can be preceded by the indefinite article a/an.
    I need an umbrella.
    This is a parrot.
  • Uncountable nouns only have singular form. They can't be preceded by the indefinite article a/an. They can be preceded by some/any.
    I need milk.
    I can give you some advice.
  • To express a specific amount of an uncountable element we will use a partitive, that is a group of words that act as a unit of measure. The structure would be: quantity + measure word + of
    A bag of 
    Flour
    Pasta
    Rice
    A slice of
    Bread
    Meat
    Cheese
    A carton of
    Milk
    Juice
    Ice cream
    A jar of
    Jam
    Honey
    Tomato sauce
    A can of
    Tuna
    Sweet corn
    Coke
    A drop of
    Water
    Wine
    Oil
    A tube of
    Toothpaste
    Glue
    Shampoo
    A bit of/A piece of
    Advice
    Information
    News
    A pinch of
    Salt
    Sugar
    Pepper
    A roll of
    Toilet paper
    Tape
    Cling film
  • Some of these partitives can also be applied to countable nouns such as
    A can of pineapple.
    A bag of crisps.
    A jar of olives.
  • There are some countable nouns that only have plural form. To designate a unit we use a pair of.
    A pair of glasses.
    A pair of trousers.
    A pair of scissors.

    Pay attention to the difference between a pair of and a couple of.

      Use Examples
    A PAIR OF To refer to two things of the same type that are used together so they are considered as one unit. A pair of shoes. A pair of gloves.
    PAIRS OF If we want to designate more than one unit by adding a number. Two pairs of shoes. Four pairs of gloves.
    A COUPLE OF To refer to two units of something. A couple of CDs. A couple of ideas.
  • Drinks are usually treated as uncountable but we can refer to them as if they were countable as in a cup of , a glass of...
    COUNTABLE
    Three (cups of) coffees, please.
    UNCOUNTABLE
    I don't like coffee.
  • Some nouns can be both countable and uncountable. In these cases, there is usually a difference in meaning.
    COUNTABLE
    There are 5 rooms in my house.
    UNCOUNTABLE
    There isn't room for another table.
    COUNTABLE
    How many lights do you need?
    UNCOUNTABLE
    My bedroom gets a lot of light.
    COUNTABLE
    Can I read this paper?
    UNCOUNTABLE
    Give the boy some paper to draw on.

Remember!

Countable nouns are those that can be counted with numbers. Uncountable nouns cannot be counted with numbers.
Countable Uncountable
For elements that can be treated individually Two birds For elements that can't be treated individually Air
Singular and plural form Tree / trees Only singular form Water / waters
We use a/an/one  to designate elements in singular I need a book Usually used with some/any/Ø  I need some money
They can be counted using numbers One bee - two bees Can be counted with a partitive. quantity + measure word + of A bottle of milk

 

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