Some nouns in English are uncount nouns.

We do not use uncount nouns in the plural and we do not use them with the indefinite article, a/an.

We ate a lot of foods > We ate a lot of food
We bought some new furnitures > We bought some new furniture
That’s a useful information > That’s useful information

We can use some quantifiers with uncount nouns:

He gave me some useful advice.
They gave us a lot of information.

Uncount nouns often refer to:

  • Substances: food; water; wine; salt; bread; iron
  • Human feelings or qualities: anger; cruelty; happiness; honesty; pride;
  • Activities: help; sleep; travel; work
  • Abstract ideas: beauty; death; fun; life

 

Common uncount nouns

There are some common nouns in English, like accommodation, which are uncount nouns even though they have plurals in other languages:

 

advice baggage equipment furniture homework information
knowledge luggage machinery money news traffic

Let me give you some advice.
How much luggage have you got?

If we want to make these things countable, we use expressions like:

 

a piece of... pieces of... a bit of... bits of... an item of... items of...

 Let me give you a piece of advice.
That’s a useful piece of equipment.
We bought a few bits of furniture for the new apartment.
She had six separate items of luggage.

but we do not use accommodation, money and traffic in this way.

Exercise

Comments

Hello Hussain,
It is possible to analyse the phrase 'a lot of' in terms of its individual parts but I don't think it's very helpful and so I would suggest learning it as a set phrase, as I said.
Articles are used before nouns, yes, but I'm not sure as to the exact meaning of your second question.  Could you rephrase it, perhaps with an example sentence so I can fully understand?
Many thanks,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

hello'
can you please tell me that why "a few" is used except "few" in following sentence:

We bought a few bits of furniture for the new apartment

Hello menaka,

There is a difference in meaning between these:

'A few' = some and enough for the purpose; it has a positive sense.
'Few' = not as many as we would like or not enough for the purpose; it has a negative sense.

For example:

'I have few friends' = I am a little lonely and would like more friends.
'I have a few friends' = I'm quite happy with the number of friends I have.

So, in your example the speaker is saying that they bought enough bits of furniture - perhaps they will buy more, but they don't lack furniture. If the speaker had said 'We bought few bits of furniture for the apartment' then we would understand that there was a problem of not having enough furniture.

There is a similar distinction between 'a little' and 'little' with non-count nouns.

'I have a little time' = I can help you/chat/do something with you.
'I have little time' = I'm in a hurry.

You can find more general information on quantifiers here:

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/determiners-an...

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
is the word " vocabulary" countable or uncountable. Can I say "I know so many English vocabularies?"

Thanks in advance

Hello zagrus,

The word 'vocabulary' is uncountable.  You need to say 'items of vocabulary' or, more simply, 'words'.

If you need to find out something like this in future, you can use the Cambridge Dictionaries Online window.  Type 'vocabulary' into the window and you'll get a lot of information on the word, including grammatical information such as whether it is countable or uncountable.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello zagrus,

In common use, vocabulary is an uncountable noun but it is true that vocabulary can be used as a countable noun in certain, quite specific, contexts.  This kind of use is a feature of technical language.  For example, in normal use 'English' (as in the language) is an uncountable noun, but it is possible for linguists to talk of 'Englishes' when they want to distinguish between different variants of the language (American English vs British English, for example, or spoken English vs written English).

When used as it is in your original sentence, with the meaning of 'words' or 'items of vocabulary', it is uncountable.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Mr.Peter,
Thank you so much for your valuable explanation .I got it, really this is very helpful site.

Hello ,The learn English Team,
Can you please tell me the place where I can learn about "exponent & function " in English.
Regards,
Menaka

Hello menaka,

'Functions' are things that we do with language in communication, such as 'apologising', 'making suggestions', 'complaining' and so on.  'Exponents' are the phrases and sentences which we use to do these things.  For example, exponents of the function of apologising would include 'I'm sorry', 'I apologise', 'Please accept my apologies' and so on.

A great place to practise these aspects of langauge is our 'How to...' series, which has episodes looking at some of the most useful functions, such as 'How to turn down and invitation', 'How to greet someone you haven't seen for ages' and, of course, 'How to order a round in a pub'.

I hope that helps you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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