Uncountable Nouns in English
Countable nouns vs. uncountable nouns
1. Nouns are used as uncountable nouns when they refer to a substance, material or phenomenon in general but they are used as countable nouns when they refer to one particular unit which is composed of that substance or to one occurrence of the phenomenon in question:
This tower was built of stone.
I have found a stone in my garage.
Everybody wants success.
Mrs. Smith's speech was a great success.
2. Some uncountable nouns are used as countable nouns, both in the singular and in the plural, when they have special meanings:
tin — tin ('it is the name of a metal')
a tin ('it is the name of a metal box')
glass — glass ('it is the name of a material')
a glass ('it is the name of a drinking vessel').
3. Names of substances can be used as countable nouns, both in the singular and in the plural, when they refer to a kind or portion of that substance. Notice the adjectives in front of the nouns in question.
This cafe has a very good coffee.
Please bring me two coffees (i.e. 'two cups of coffee').
This is a bad butter.
Unfortunately, I bought two butters of this sort (i.e. 'two packets of butter').
4. Some abstract nouns can be used as countable nouns, in the singular only, when they refer to a kind. Notice the adjectives in front of the nouns in question:
Education is free in most countries.
This means that even the poorest can receive a good education.
All scientists possess knowledge.
Tom has a good knowledge of Japanese.
In English some nouns belong to the category of uncountable nouns. Not always the same uncountable nouns in English correspond with uncountable nouns in other languages. Below you can find a list of the most common uncountable nouns in English. In bold you can see the most troublesome cases.
- Uncountable nouns:
- business (=trade)
- capital (=money)
- hair (= all the hairs on the head)
- the post (= letters)
- toast (=bread)
ExercisesGrammar exercises - Nouns
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- Phrasal verbs
- British vs. American
- English proverbs
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- English abbreviations