Level: beginner

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 food. (NOT foods)
We bought some new furniture. (NOT furnitures)
That's useful information. (NOT a 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

Some common nouns in English like information are uncount nouns even though they have plurals in other languages:

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

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

Common uncount nouns 1

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

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

However, accommodation, money and traffic cannot be made countable in this way. We need to use other expressions:

I've lived in three flats/apartments. (NOT bits of accommodation)
Smith received three large sums of money. (NOT pieces of money)
We got stuck in two traffic jams. (NOT pieces of traffic)

Common uncount nouns 2

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Common uncount nouns 3

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Comments

Dear Sir,
we always say Science, Commerce and Arts far as the issue of stream is concern. So my question is
why Arts always been written in plural contrary to Science and Commerce.

Hello Manoj,

The 'arts' refers to the various kinds of arts - music, sculpture, dance - but in any case I'd just recommend you accept this as how the word is used.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
I have a small doubt that which one is correct, 'One and a half an hour' or 'one and a half hours'?

Thank you, sir.

Hello chandini,

'one and a half hours' is the correct form here.

Best wishes,
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

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

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

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