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

Why "advice" is considered as uncountable noun? Would you please explain this for me?
We may get a single advice sometimes. So, why don't we say "He gave me an advice."? and why shouldn't we use articles before the noun "Advice"?

Hello chandini,

I can't answer the question 'why' advice is uncountable as this is simply a feature of the language which has evolved over time, but I can confirm that it is so.  When we want to talk in a specific way about advice we use the phrase 'a piece of':

She game me some good advice. [general - uncountable]

She gave me threee good pieces of advice. [specific - countable]

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you

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

Hello Mr.Peter
 thank you for your direction, i learnt more about the 'function & exponents' from "How to ....series"
regards
menaka

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

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

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