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 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

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.

Hello Sir, I can hope you are fine; therefore, I strongly need your help for the following sentences regarding Nouns/adjectives Complement. 1)He is a boy.( In this sentence the complement is a noun.) 2)He is good.( In this sentence the complement is an adjective .) 3)He is a good boy.( In this last sentence both an adjective and a noun are used so what complement,so should it be called?) Thanks a million in advance.(Advanced.)

Hello again nadarali1996,

'a' is a determiner, 'good' is an adjective and 'boy' is the noun. All together they form a noun phrase that is in this sentence functioning as a complement. You can learn more about this on our noun phrase page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Thank you very much , sir, and it is nice of you that you have cleared my mind.

Sir, if travel is an uncount noun, then is the sentence "In all his travels he studied only the phenomena of nature and human life." wrong?

Hello umakanthan,

No, the sentence is not wrong. 'Travel' is uncountable when it describes the concept of moving from place to place, as in the well-known saying travel broadens the mind, for example.

However, in certain contexts it is possible to use 'travel' as an alternative to 'journey' and then it can be countable. It has limited use, however. We would not use it to describe our own journey in normal conversation, but rather in the kind of context you have above: biographies and literary works.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello , I saw the following sentence in an English exercise book.

"With the development of smart card technology, it will have possibly in the near future that you need to carry only one card . "

It asked where the two mistakes in the sentence are.

I don't know if the "of" is to be replaced by "in", or "will" to be replaced by "may" for the first answer?

That is : "development of" to be "development in" ? or "it will have " to be "it may have"?

"possibly" to be replaced by "possibility" or "possibilities" for the second answer?

Please tell me the two answers with explanation. Thank you.

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