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

Hi santisair,

In general, 'food' is anything we eat. The less common 'foods' is used when we want to distinguish between different types of food. For example, we might say:

In this shop you can find many different ethnic foods from around the world.

If you have a particular example in mind we will be happy to comment on it, of course.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply sir.
But, i wonder whether i have already had a good comprehension or no.
Am i correct if say like these two sentences ?

I want to eat some food. >>> (i use "food" because i don't say the type of food)

I want to eat some chinese foods. >>> (i use "foods" because i say specific type of food)

Thanks

Hello santisair,

In both of these cases we would use 'food'. We use 'foods' very rarely, as I said, and really only when we need to differentiate between some kinds of categories - it is a way of saying 'kinds of food' but unless we have a particular reason that 'food' is not clear then we tend to use the uncountable form.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Well, thanks a lot sir...

Dear Sir
I want to make sure using parts of 'be' with uncount nouns. Help me to make this clear. Could I say: 'There are some furniture in the room.'
'Some equipment in the work shop are unserviceable.'
Thank you in advance.
Regards
Andrew international

Hello Andrew international,

Only count nouns can have plural forms and take plural verbs. Uncount nouns require singular verbs. Therefore, you should use is and not are in your sentences.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Thank you very much for your reply regarding uncount nouns and matching verb.
Please clarify this too: There are only a few pieces of furniture.( a part of the exercise you have given) Could I say 'those are useful pieces of equipment.' (my own sentence)
Thank you.
Regards
Andrew international

Hello Andrew international,

Yes, that would work.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I was wondering about uncountable nouns that have a plural form, yet they take singular verbs. For example:
News is very important because...
Although ''news'' takes singular verb, ''glasses'' takes a plural verb:
These glasses are perfect, and I can see...

How can I understand what to use?

Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

'news' is an uncount noun, but 'glasses' is a plural count noun – this is why the first takes a singular verb and the second a plural verb.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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