Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Nouns can be countable or uncountable. Countable nouns are items we can count easily. Uncountable nouns are more difficult to count.

Uncountable nouns are also called non-countable nouns, non-count nouns, and mass nouns.
Nouns are naming words. They are the names of people, places, things, and ideas.

Countable nouns

Most words for people and objects are countable nouns. We can use a number to say how many there are.

1 apple. 7 apples.

If we are talking about one (1) object, we can use the articles ‘a’ or ‘an’ before the noun.

A girl. 2 girls.
Countable nouns have singular and plural forms.

Uncountable Nouns

Words for liquids, powders, materials, and many foods are uncountable. Abstract nouns are also uncountable

Liquidswater, juice, milk
Powderssugar, flour, rice
Materialswood, metal, plastic, paper
Foodfruit, meat, bread, cheese
Abstract nounslove, hope, fear, justice

Examples of Uncountable Nouns

Measuring Uncountable Nouns

We can’t use a number to describe the amount of an uncountable noun. We need to use a unit of measurement.

2 litres of water.

We can measure water and other liquids in litres.

A glass of water.

We can also measure water and other liquids in glasses, cups, and bottles.

1 kilogram of sugar.

We can measure sugar and other powders in kilograms.

A packet of sugar.

We can also measure sugar in packets.

2 pieces of cake.

We can measure foods like cake, bread, pizza, meat, and cheese in pieces.

If you don’t know the measurement word for an uncountable noun, you can use ‘some’.

I have some water.
We can’t use the articles ‘a’ or ‘an’ with uncountable nouns.

Words that are Countable and Uncountable

Some words can be both countable and uncountable depending on how you use them.

If you are talking about a whole object, the noun is often countable. If you are talking about part of an object, the noun is often uncountable.

2 cakes.

You are talking about two whole cakes, so the noun ‘cake’ is countable.

2 pieces of cake.

You are talking about part of a cake, so the noun ‘cake’ is uncountable.

Some cake.

You are talking about part of a cake, so the noun ‘cake’ is uncountable.

Nouns that are usually uncountable are used as countable nouns when we talk about different types or varieties.

I tried several cheeses.

‘Cheese’ is usually uncountable. In this sentence we are talking about the different varieties of cheese, so it is countable.