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

Hello Marua,

'Food' is a word that is uncountable in most contexts. The uncountable form is always correct as far as I am aware, but there are some contexts in which we can it it as a countable noun. These are cases when we want to make it clear that we are talking about different types of food

Your first sentence is referring to whatever food is in the fridge without distinguishing between types so 'food' is correct. Your second sentence is referring to different types of a particular category of food - different types of snack food - so the countable form is appropriate here.

There are many nouns which function in a similar way, such as coffee, time and space.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear british council team.
I'm a little confused between count and uncount nouns when we say "a wish or and idea "are count nouns and why do we say human feeling and qualities such as "fun or happiness are uncount nouns!!!???
What are the differences between them??
please make them clarify .
Thank you in advance...dears.

Hi Ali boroki,

As far as I know, this just how English speakers see wishes, ideas, fun and happiness. I suppose once could say that a wish is count because it is usually for a specific thing and that an idea is similar, but of course you could argue that they are not so concrete and would make more sense as uncount nouns. But that's not how native speakers of English imagine these concepts.

The same is true of 'happiness' and 'fun' -- we just imagine these concepts as being uncountable and so the nouns are uncount.

I expect this may not be a very satisfying answer for you; if so, I'm sorry! On the other hand, this is one of the things that I enjoy about learning other languges -- you come to realise that there are so many different ways of seeing the world.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again dear advicer Kirk.
As you said it can be different in many languages ,but i wanted to ask about rule ,is there any rule that i follow it ??if there isn't...no problem i should just memories this .
How ever thanks for your answer i'm happy to hear advice from you.

Hi again Ali boroki,

No, I'm afraid there is no rule here. I would suggest looking up words in the dictionary when you learn them. There you can find out if they are count or uncount. For example, if you look up 'fun' (follow the link), the fact that 'fun' is an uncount noun is indicated with the symbol [U]. If it were a count noun, it would say [C] instead.

Some nouns are used both as count and uncount nouns, so sometimes it can be a little complicated!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Perfect, but is very dificult to me.

Hello Sir
I would like to make this clear. How much luggage have you got?(from your web site)
Is it all right to say 'How much furniture have you got? How much furniture is good?/ How much furniture are good?
My problem : luggage is uncountable but you have used 'have'
please help me to make this clear
Thank you.
Regards
Lal

Hello Lal,

In the questions about how much luggage and furniture, the subject of the verb 'have' is 'you', which is why it is correct. The question 'How much furniture is good?' is correct because 'furniture' (like the word 'luggage') is uncount and therefore it takes a singular verb.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Thank you for explaining clearly 'how much luggage have you got?'
Is it all right to say: how many pieces of luggage have you got?
How much luggage has she got? How many pieces of luggage has she got?
How many pieces of luggage are there?
Thank you.
Regards
Lal

Hi Lal,

You're welcome! All of the sentences you ask about are correct -- good work.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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