Noun – part of speech that refers to a person, place, thing, event or idea and can be replaced by a pronoun. One way to classify nouns is according to whether they can be counted or not – we often refer to nouns as countable and uncountable. Many English mistakes are related to this aspect (as many nouns that we encounter in the English vocabulary have a plural form in the student’s mother language) therefore it is important to distinguish between countable and uncountable nouns as their usage is different in regards to both determiners and verbs. The most important issues regarding this matter would be:
- what countable and uncountable nouns are
- how to use them correctly in a sentence
Countable (or count) nouns are words which can be counted. They have a singular form and a plural form and can be used with the indefinite article ‘a/ an’ or with ‘many’, ‘few’, ‘several’. They usually refer to things. Most countable nouns become plural by adding an ‘s’ at the end of the word.
Uncountable (or non-count) nouns are words which cannot be counted. Therefore, they only have a singular form. They have no plural forms and cannot be used with the indefinite article, but can be used with ‘much’, ‘little’. These words are thought of as a whole rather than as parts. They usually refer to abstractions (such as confidence or advice) or collectives (such as equipment or luggage).
- There was too much noise and I could not focus on what I was doing.
- When I was a teenager I had little freedom.
- Too much pride is not good in a relationship.
- We add a little salt and pepper to give food special taste.
Types of uncountable nouns:
1. material nouns: milk, cotton, air, sand.
2. abstract nouns: peace, beauty, freedom.
3. names of sports: tennis, skating, football.
4. names of plants, when referring to the species: garlic, potato, maize.
5. names of town, countries, months: Paris, England, February.
Note: Still, uncountable nouns can be used in the plural with the help of some words called partitives, such as: bit, item, slice, bar, lump, inch, mile, meter, yard, pound.
However, some words have one meaning that is countable and another meaning that is uncountable, depending on the context:
|I’d like two sugars, please. (Sugar, here, means spoonful or lump of sugar and is therefore countable.)||Please give me some sugar. (Sugar, here, means the substance in general. It is uncountable.)|
|We saw lights in the distance. (Lights, here, means torches or different lights in a house.)||There isn’t light in here. (Light, here, means the entity in general.)|
|I have an evening paper.||Paper is expensive nowadays.|
|Two lambs are running in the farmyard.||Lamb is usually more expensive just before Easter.|
Practice –Decide whether these nouns are countable or uncountable:
- coffee C/U
- money C/U
- a glass of wine C/U
- knife C/U
- information C/U
- furniture C/U
- bus C/U
- traffic C/U
- sugar C/U
- a cup of tea C/U
Autor: Ana-Maria Hănţoiu, trainer A_BEST de limba engleză