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

Thank you so much Kirk :)

Dear Sir,
Could you please tell me which usages are correct out of the following ones -

1. He gave me a confidential information.
2. He gave me a piece of confidential information.
3. He gave me confidential information.

Thank you so much Sir :)

Hi iamsam1987,

What do you think? Consider that 'information' is an uncount noun in English, which means that one of your three sentences is not correct and the other two are OK.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Learned a lot from this exercise.. thank u again!! this is a good way to improve ENG knowledge far more than reading books laying on bed in evenings.. ;)

Sir,
I have a good news for you.
I have good news for you.
which is correct?

Hello asif0050,

As you can see in the entry for 'news' in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online (see the search box below on the right), it is an uncount noun. As an uncount noun, it is incorrect to use the indefinite article 'a' before it. Therefore, the second version you wrote is the correct one, though you could also use 'some' in place of 'a'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir or Madam,

I hope you could help me out. I am looking for a English Grammar Book or website where I could find the English structure or syntax. I am a software programmer and I find much easier learn English by Syntax and code. Any suggestion?

Thanks,

Cesar SOTO

Hello Cesar,

The Grammar Reference, i.e. the section you are in now, is our primary resource for learning English grammar. I'm afraid we don't recommend books, and in any case I'm not familiar with any that approach English syntax as code. I'd recommend do an internet search for 'learn English syntax' and looking through the results - perhaps there will be something suitable there.

Good luck!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,
I read that we can't use an indefinite article with uncount nouns. OK. The question is: may I say "a love like this..."?
Thank you

Hi piabba,

'Love' is an abstract noun and is usually uncountable when we are talking about the emotion in general. It is possible to use it as a countable noun in the sense of either 'a person who I love' ('I wrote a poem to a love from my past') or a particular feeling rather than the emotion in general ('I have always felt a strong love for my family'). Your examples would be similar to this second case.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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