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Common problems with count and uncount nouns


Level: beginner 

Substances as count or uncount nouns

Substances are usually uncount nouns:

Would you like some cheese?
Coffee keeps me awake at night.
Wine makes me sleepy.

but they can also be used as count nouns:

I'd like a coffee, please. = I'd like a [cup of] coffee.
May I have a white wine? = May I have a [glass of] white wine?
They sell a lot of coffees. = They sell a lot of [different kinds of] coffee.
I prefer white wines to red. = I prefer [different kinds of] white wine to red.
They had over twenty cheeses. = They had over twenty [types of] cheese.
This is an excellent soft cheese. = This [kind of] soft cheese is excellent.

Substances as count or uncount nouns 1


Substances as count or uncount nouns 2


Nouns with both a count and an uncount form

Some nouns have both a count and an uncount form. Their meanings are closely related:

George had hopes of promotion.
We should always have hope.

There's a danger of avalanches on the mountain.
Some people enjoy danger.

Level: intermediate

Nouns with two meanings

Some nouns have two meanings, one count and the other uncount:

Can I have a glass of water?
I cut myself on some glass.


Is English a difficult language?
Linguistics is the study of language.

The Times is an excellent paper.
It's made of paper.

Other nouns like this are:

business industry property wood
power time work hair
Nouns with two meanings 1


Nouns with two meanings 2


Uncount nouns that end in –s

Some uncount nouns end in –s. They look like plural count nouns, but they are not.

Nouns like this generally refer to:

Subjects of study: mathematics, physics, economics, etc.
Activities: gymnastics, athletics, etc. 
Games: cards, darts, billiards, etc.
Diseases: mumps, measles, rabies, etc.

Economics is a very difficult subject.
Billiards is easier than pool or snooker.

Uncount nouns that end in –s




Hello. Could you explain the difference between noun and noun that is formed from a verb.
For example: swim,swimming or wet, wetness.

Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

A noun formed from a verb with -ing is called a gerund. It functions in the same was as any other noun and can fulfil the same roles in the sentence. For more information about gerunds, see this page.

Your second example is not a noun formed from a verb. 'Wet' is an adjective; 'wetness' is a noun. Again, this functions as a normal noun - there is no difference in its use.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I am sorry for wrongly formulated question. ''wet'' according to Cambridge Dictionary can be a noun. Could you explain what is the difference between wet and wetness?

Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

There's not a big difference between them, though 'wetness' is more common when the meaning is more abstract.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

for the uncount nouns section, I'm confused about when to add s to nouns, like in the following sentence: "Mary explores the actions of a scientist who creates a human being from dead organism tissue." Should we add s to tissue or put an article in front of dead?
Thank you

Hello Tonyloveheart,

'tissue' is one of many nouns that can be used as both count and uncount nouns. Here, I think you could use it as either a plural count noun or an uncount noun - uncount is probably slightly better - so no article is needed. I don't know what the context is or if it's otherwise important, but I'd say you could omit the word 'organism', i.e. I'd probably say 'from dead tissue'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Could you explain me the difference between "noodle" and "noodles"?

Hello Liza,

I think the best resource for you is the dictionary entry for 'noodle'. As you'll see, in its most common use, 'noodle' is a count noun, though it is usually plural, as usually people make more than one piece. When it's used in a compound noun (e.g. 'noodle soup', '), 'noodle' is used in the singular.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir please consider the following sentence :
"Owing to heavy engagement he could not write even the two - third of the book of which the publication was expected before January. "
Is this sentence correct? And what exactly does the second part mean? Doest it mean publication house was supposed to meet some orders of some particular magazine or so. Or does it mean that the writer was expected to finish writing before deadline for the publisher.

Hello Agog,

That does not seem a very well-constructed sentence to me, though it is hard to comment fully without knowing the context.

Without knowing the context it is hard to interpret. It seems to mean that the book was to be published before January, but that the writer did not complete his or her work in time. Normally the writer finishes the book well before the publication date because there is a lot of work to do between the end of the writing and the actual publication (editing, typesetting, marketing etc).


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team