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

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.. ;)

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

Dear Sir,

Could you please explain me the use of 'fruit' and 'crowd' in both singular and plural forms?

Is there any nuance in their meaning when they are used in the singular and the plural ?

Hello iamsam1987,

You can see some good examples of these words in use in our dictionary. Note that 'crowd' is always a count noun, but 'crowd' in the singular can be followed by a singular verb or plural verb, as it refers to a group of more than one person; 'crowds' is always followed by a plural verb.

'fruit' has both count and uncount forms. As an uncount noun, it refers to all the different kinds of that part of a plant - and this form is by far the most common one.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much Kirk :)

By the age of two a child will have a vocabulary of about two hundred words.

'vocabulary' is an uncountable noun, in this case can we use 'a' ?

Hi christine88,

There are quite a few nouns that have both count and uncount forms. If you look up 'vocabulary' in our dictionary (see the Cambridge Dictionaries Online search box on the right), you'll see that it is one of these. In this case, as it seems you've already guessed, it's a count noun, and that is why 'a' is used with it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

dear Kirk i couldn't find list of count/uncount words like ''vocabulary'' ..Could you tell me please?

Hello Eddi,

The best place to find this kind of information is the dictionary. If you type the word 'vocabulary' in the search box on the lower right side of this page (under Cambridge Dictionaries Online) you can see the entry for this word, which will tell you if it's count [C], uncount [U] or both [C or U].

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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