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

Grouping_MTYwODI

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYwODM

Common uncount nouns 3

GapFillTyping_MTYxMjY

 

Comments

Hello , Sir.
I hope you are fine and fit,moreover you,your team, are doing very well. I have a got question in my mind regarding the topic of uncountable nouns is that sometimes we can use some abstract nouns with a/an , as follows: (i) a help: My children are a good help to me. This pill might be a good help. (ii) a knowledge +of: My teacher has got a good knowledge of English literature. (Resource: A practical English Grammar By A.J Thomson & A.V Martinet) so sir, would you mind telling me in which way and what words can be used with a/an being an abstract noun?

Hello nadarali1996,

That's very observant of you! It is possible to use the indefinite article with abstract nouns to indicate a specific kind or instance of that abstract noun. In your example with your kids, they give you a certain kind of help, and in the case of your teacher, she has a certain kind of knowledge, i.e. knowledge of English literature. As far as I know, you could use the indefinite article in this way with any abstract noun, as long as you can speak of a certain kind of that abstract noun.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, It's so nice of you , moreover you have explained the things fabulously. I was a little confused about these nouns , for not all abstract nouns can be used like them. I , however, am very much thankful to you for helping me in order to improve my English.

Hi,
Can we use 'it' as the pronoun for collective noun such as a team. For example, is the following sentence correct?
Though England lost eight wickets, it scored 300 runs.
Thanks

Hi naghmairam,

Collective nouns such as this can be treated as either singular or plural so both 'they' and 'it' are possible. However, there are conventions of use which determine which of these is more common, and it is much more common to use 'they' here than 'it'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

How is the word "information" pronounced in French?

Hello alicewirek,

I'd suggest you check a French dictionary to hear a native French pronunciation of this word. For example, the Larousse Dictionary has this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,
So abstract nouns are mass nouns, no plural forms, aren't they?
But some nouns in term of philosophy such as morals, beliefs, ethics,.... do take plural form but I feel they are as abstraction category!
Many thanks!

Hello Agnes,

Many abstract nouns are uncount nouns, though there some are count nouns. Some of them are always plural, and others can be plural and singular.

If you look up 'ethics' in the dictionary, you'll see that it is an uncount noun, but there is a singular form for 'beliefs'. 'morals' is always plural, though the word 'moral' exists. Please take a closer look at all of these words in the dictionary and then let us know if you have any questions about them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

1. Especially, "Ethics" are treated as plural and singular noun as Oxford Dictionary Online
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ethics
E.g ‘neither metaphysics nor ethics is the home of religion’
So in this context, is "ethics" treated as uncountable or countable noun?
2. Belief(s) - there are some examples for both singular and plural noun as Oxford Dictionary Online
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/belief
3. Moral(s) - - there are some examples for both singular and plural noun as Oxford Dictionary Online
E.g ‘the moral of this story was that one must see the beauty in what one has’

Many thanks!

Pages