Count / Noncount Nouns

Recognize nouns that are individual, mass or collective

 

 

 

Unit Noun vs. Collective Noun

COUNT NOUN

A count noun is a unit, an item in a group that can be counted. A number can be placed before it: three dollars.  It can take the plural form. Most count nouns belong to a collective group which is not countable.

SINGULAR PLURAL

The dollar is here.

The dollars are here.

dollar dollars
NONCOUNT NOUN

A noncount noun is a group, mass or collective noun. It is not countable because it is too small, a particle, liquid, gas, concept or activity. A collective noun has no plural form. (A dollar is a unit within the group: money.)

SINGULAR

The money is here.
 

money
 

Yes, we count money – coins and bills. However ,money (the collective noun) is noncount.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noun Markers

Determiners and Demonstratives

 

 

 

Determiners Used With Count and Noncount Nouns

COUNT NOUN

Determiners, such as the, this, that, these, those are used before nouns that are definite (identified, known).  Some determiners have plural forms.  See Determiners for details.

SINGULAR PLURAL

The dollar is on the table. 

The dollars are on the table. 

This dollar is mine.

These dollars are mine.  (demonstrative: here)

That dollar is yours. 

Those dollars are yours.  (demonstrative: there)

One dollar is yours. 

Some dollars are on the table.

NONCOUNT NOUN

Determiners for noncount nouns are singular.  Quantifiers are used for mass and collective nouns.  See Quantity Phrases and Food Quantifiers for more details.

SINGULAR

The money is on the table. 

This money is mine. 

That money is yours.  

Some money is on the table. (an indefinite amount)   

 

Demonstratives: this (near)  / that (far); here (near) / there (far)
See: Determiners "Basic Markers", Some / Any, Little / Few 

 

 

 

 

 

Noncount Nouns

Fluids, Solids, Gases, Particles and Concepts

 

 

 

Noncount Nouns (singular)

ITEMS
FLUIDS (liquids)

water, coffee, tea, milk, oil, gasoline, wine

GASES

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

PARTICLES

rice, corn, flour, sugar, popcorn, pepper, salt, cinnamon, oregano (spice names), tea, coffee, etc.

MASS / SOLIDS

ice, bread, butter, cheese, meat, gold, chalk silver, glass

COLLECTIVE—SINGULAR FORM

baggage, luggage, clothing, furniture, food, fruit, money, traffic, garbage, scenery, junk, mail, jewelry, homework, housework, work, footwear, tableware, underwear, cutlery, bedlinen

COLLECTIVE—PLURAL FORM

arms, clothes, contents, covers, dishes, goods, groceries, leftovers, refreshments, remains, spoils, supplies, valuables

ABSTRACT
CONCEPTS

happiness, health, love, fun, help, honesty, peace, progress, beauty, knowledge, justice, intelligence, luck, music, experience

NATURAL PHENOMENA

weather, fog, heat, humidity, lightning, rain, snow, thunder, wind, darkness, light, sunshine, electricity, fire, gravity, mass, time, space, energy

LANGUAGE & LANG. STUDY

Arabic, French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, grammar, slang, vocabulary

FIELDS OF STUDY

chemistry, engineering, art, philosophy, science, law, ¹(linguistics, statistics, mathematics)

RECREATION & ACTIVITY

basketball, soccer, baseball, dance, football, sleeping, driving, writing, studying, swimming, studying, rock climbing, sky diving (gerunds)

 
 
 

¹singular, but happen to end in -s
See Quantity Phrases and Food Quantifiers for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Count / Noncount Nouns

Fruit vs. Fruits

fruit
 

 

SINGULAR PREFERENCE

Most speakers prefer the singular form (below):

Fruit is delicious in the summertime.  

*Fruits are delicious in the summertime.

DIALECTAL VARIATION

Preferences vary with the phrase "fruit(s) and vegetables": 

I have to buy some fruit and vegetables.

I have to buy some fruits and vegetables.   parallel word forms

 

*The plural form is more commonly used in a scientific context when talking about different types of fruit: Fruits of South America, Fruits of Micronesia, or in an expression "May we soon enjoy the fruits of our labor."  (fruits means benefits.)
Related page plural varieties 
Dialectal variations occur for the noun fruit, also grapefruit, breadfruit and eggplant.

 

 

 

grapes

 

 

The items within the category "fruit" are countable.

COUNT NOUN — SINGULAR

This grape is sweet.

This cantaloupe is delicious.

COUNT NOUN — PLURAL

These grapes are sweet.

These cantaloupes are delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Count / Noncount Nouns

Nouns Both Count & Noncount

 

 

 

Nouns Occurring as Both Count and Noncount

COUNT

In the nouns below, the determiner a before the count noun expresses a particular, specific event, "true of one situation".  Note that in some cases, an adjective is included.

A  or A + ADJECTIVE

What a life she has! 
What an easy life she has!

I had a good experience today.
I had an experience today. (adjective not mentioned)

What a pitypity (expression) – a sad situation or disappointment

You have a thought but is it a good one? (idea)
I'm sending positive thoughts (wishes)

I have a duty to serve my country.
I have an important duty to serve my country.

 We had a conversation with him.
We had a strange conversation with him.

She has an opportunity to receive a scholarship.
She has a good opportunity to…

She has made a marked progress¹ in her work. 
*She made a progress.   ¹(noticeable progress)

We had an excellent time today.
?We had a time today.   (expletive not mentioned)

He had a good education
?He had an education.

I had a good night's sleep last night.
*I had a sleep last night.

He's been a big help to us!
%He's been a help to us.  

MATERIAL NOUNS

I received an email from him today.

Has the paper arrived?  (newspaper)

I bought a glass for wine.

May I have two milks (restaurant speech = two glasses of milk)

He ate two sausages

Argentina is a beautiful country.

NONCOUNT

The noncount use of the equivalent (same) word expresses a more general meaning, "true for all".  Life is complicated..

ABSTRACT NOUNS

Life is complicated.

I have a lot of experience in hotel management.

He feels pity for her.

Your project needs more thought.

He has a strong sense of duty.

Dinner conversation is entertaining.

When opportunity knocks, answer the door.

She has made progress in her work.

Time passes slowly.

Education can change a person's future.

Sleep improves a person's health.

Help is hard to find.

MATERIAL NOUNS

I get so much email that I can't read it all.

Please put some paper in the copy machine.

The store sells glass for windows.

The store sells milk.

The store sell good sausage. (ground meat)

A cowboy prefers to live in the country.  (away from cities) 

 

* Not used without an adjective.
%varies in dialectal usage
? questionable usage — These sentence sound more natural with an adjective included.

(Huddleston 334-40) ( Swan148-9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*I have a lot of homeworks to do.

*She washed her hairs.  

*The equipments don't work well.

* My baggages were lost. 

* I bought new furnitures.

SOLUTION

I have a lot of homework to do.

She washed her hair.  

The equipment doesn't work well.

My baggage was lost. 

I bought new furniture.

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Items and Mass Nouns

 

 

 

Select the count or the noncount noun.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

The group noun meat may consist of several meat cuts.

meat

Meat is not countable.

a steak

A steak is / steaks are countable.  (a chop, a roast, a slice, a cut)

 
1.

2.

3.

 

Solution - lightbulb  Pop-Q "Meats"  

 

 

 

The group noun equipment may consist of several computers.

equipment
Equipment is not countable.


a laptop 
A computer is / computers are countable.

 
4.

5.

 

 

 

 

The group noun scenery may consist of several views. 

scenery
Scenery is not countable.

Canyon view
A view is / views are countable. 

 

6.

7.

 

 

 

The group noun luggage may consist of several suitcases.

luggage

Luggage is not countable. (baggage)

suitcase

A bag is / bags are countable. (a suitcase, a backpack, a briefcase, a purse)

 
8.

9.

 

 

 

The group noun software may consist of several programs.

programs
Software is not countable.

software
An application is / applications are countable.  (a program, a disk)

 
10.

11.

 

 

 

 

The group noun  art  may consist of several paintings or pieces.

art

Art  is not countable.

Mona Lisa Miss Piggy   

A painting is / paintings are countable. (a photograph, a picture, a sculpture)

 
12.

13.

 

 

 

 

The group noun candy may consist of several pieces.

candy
Candy is not countable. (a mass noun)

types of candy
A candy bar is / candy bars are countable. (a lollipop, a truffle (bonbon)

 
14.

15.

 

 

 

 

The group noun work may consist of several jobs.

work

Work is not countable. (employment)

job

A job is / jobs are countable.  (a task, a chore, a project)

 
16.

17.

 

 

 

 

The group noun mail consist of several letters.

mail

Mail is not countable. (email)

letter

A letter is / letters are countable.  (a message, an email, a note)

 
18.

19.

 

 

 

 

The group noun clothing may consist of several shirts. 

clothing
Clothing is not countable. (clothes, apparel)

shirt
A shirt is / shirts are countable.  ( a blouse, a top, a T-shirt, a garment)

 
20.

21.

 

 

 

 

The group noun slang may consist of several expressions.

"Dude!" "Chill"
kid - slang
Slang is not countable.

"Outta sight!"
beatnik - expression / expresssions

An expression is / expressions are countable.

 
22.

23.

24.

 

Slang words are informal usage; expressions may include slang and, therefore, are formal and informal usage.

 

 

 

The group noun furniture may consist of several chairs.


furniture

Furniture is not countable

chair

A chair is / chairs are countable.

 
25.

26.

 

 

 

 

The group noun hair consists of several hairs.

hair

Hair is not countable

strands of hair

A hair is / hairs are countable.
A strand of hair / strands of hair are countable.

 
27.

28.

 

Hairs are individual ones (one or two)  found on the floor, on clothing and occasionally in food!

 

 

 

The group noun rain consists of several drops.

rain

Rain is not countable.  

raindrops

A raindrop is countable. / Raindrops are countable.

 
29.

30.