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Count/Noncount Nouns

A noun will be either countable or uncountable. If it is uncountable (noncount) it generally cannot be taken apart as individual units. There are some general guidelines for figuring out which category a noun falls into, but many times you will simply have to memorize which nouns are countable and which are uncountable. Noncount nouns are always accompanied by a singular verb such as is or need; singular determiners such as this; or generic terms such as some or a lot of.

This information is not appropriate for school.

Some information is out of place.

A lot of information is incorrect.

You cannot say:

Few information

Many information

These information

For a quick review of count and noncount nouns, select any of the following:

Common Noncount Nouns | Alternatives to Using Noncount Nouns


Common Noncount Nouns

Go through the following groups of noncount nouns and identify the nouns you did not realize were noncount nouns.

Write a sentence for each word you highlighted in your notebook.

Whole groups made up of separate items:

postage, software, research, machinery, hardware, cash, advice, mail, garbage, equipment, money, clothing, luggage, fruit, furniture, information, jewellery, jargon

Fluids:

water, coffee, tea, milk, oil, soup, gasoline, blood, wine, liquid

Solids:

ice, bread, butter, cheese, meat, gold, iron, silver, glass, paper, wood, cotton, wool

Gases:

steam, air, oxygen, nitrogen, smoke, smog, pollution

Particles:

rice, chalk, corn, dirt, flour, grass, hair, pepper, salt, sand, sugar, wheat, grain

Languages:

Chinese, English, Spanish, German, Japanese

Sports:

hockey. baseball, soccer, volleyball, football, cricket

Fields of study:

chemistry, engineering, business, mathematics, economics, literature

General activities:

driving, studying, swimming, travelling, walking (and other -ing nouns)

Natural phenomena:

weather, dew, fog, smog, hail, heat, humidity, lightning, rain, snow, wind, darkness, light, sunshine, electricity, fire, gravity

Diseases:

measles, mumps, influenza or flu

Abstractions:

advice, information, research, news, evidence, energy, grammar, knowledge, vocabulary, confidence, courage, education, fun, happiness, health, help, honesty, hospitality, importance, intelligence, justice, significance, justice, luck, music, patience, peace, progress, wealth, anger, secrecy, equality, friction, radar, combustion

Abstractions that can be used as countable or uncountable, depending on the context:

proof, time, space, fear, law truth, work, pressure, force, current, power, temperature, share

For example:

As an abstraction: Time is short when you are working hard. (referring to the concept of time)

Not an abstraction: I have seen this student three times. (not an abstraction, but a specific time)

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Alternatives to Using Noncount Nouns

There is often a countable noun that could be used in place of the noncount noun if more specific reference is desired.

noncount nouncount noun
luggagesuitcases
postagestamps
machinerymachines
jewellerynecklaces
equipmentcomputers, machines

We can make noncount nouns countable or measurable by adding countable phrases:

3 pieces of equipment

3 types of software

3 kinds of information

3 cartons of juice

3 slices of bread

3 drops of water

3 teaspoons of oil

3 cups of tea

3 bottles of milk

3 watts of electricity

3 litres of gasoline

3 molecules of oxygen

For some noncount nouns, it is possible to change the noncount noun to an adjective; for example:

3 software packages... (the word software is now an adjective)

3 homework assignments...

3 postage stamps...

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Continue to Determiners and Qualifiers.

Continue to Practice 1: Identifying Count/Noncount Nouns.




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