Countable and uncountable nouns 1

Do you know how to use a, some, any, much and many?

Look at these examples to see how to use countable and uncountable nouns in a sentence.

I'm making a cup of tea.
There's some money on the table.
Have we got any bread?
How many chairs do we need?
How much milk have we got?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Countable and uncountable nouns 1: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Nouns can be countable or uncountable. Countable nouns can be counted, e.g. an apple, two apples, three apples, etc. Uncountable nouns cannot be counted, e.g. air, rice, water, etc. When you learn a new noun, you should check if it is countable or uncountable and note how it is used in a sentence.

Countable nouns

For positive sentences we can use a/an for singular nouns or some for plurals.

There's a man at the door.
I have some friends in New York.

For negatives we can use a/an for singular nouns or any for plurals.

I don't have a dog.
There aren't any seats.

Uncountable nouns

Here are some examples of uncountable nouns:

bread rice coffee information
money advice luggage furniture

We use some with uncountable nouns in positive sentences and any with negatives.

There's some milk in the fridge.
There isn't any coffee.

Questions

In questions we use a/an, any or how many with countable nouns.

Is there an email address to write to?
Are there any chairs?
How many chairs are there?

And we use any or how much with uncountable nouns.

Is there any sugar?
How much orange juice is there?

But when we are offering something or asking for something, we normally use some.

Do you want some chocolate?
Can we have some more chairs, please?

We also use some in a question when we think the answer will be 'yes'.

Have you got some new glasses?

Other expressions of quantity

A lot of (or lots of) can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.

There are lots of apples on the trees.
There is a lot of snow on the road
.

Notice that we don't usually use many or much in positive sentences. We use a lot of instead.

They have a lot of money.

However, in negative sentences we use not many with countable nouns and not much with uncountable nouns.

There are a lot of carrots but there aren't many potatoes.
There's lots of juice but there isn't much water.

Go to Countable and uncountable nouns 2 to learn more.

Try this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Countable and uncountable nouns 1: Grammar test 2

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Submitted by Irina_L on Thu, 18/11/2021 - 11:56

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Hello, there! Can you tell me if I say "There aren't many potatoes", it means that "There are some potatoes"? Do these sentences have the same meaning or there is a slight difference? Thank you!

Hi Irina_L,

The sentences do mean something similar. 'Not many' indicates a small amount (e.g., just two or three potatoes), or an insufficient amount (e.g., there are 10 potatoes, but I need 20). 'Some' is more general and could mean a small or a large amount, or a sufficient amount.

Good question and I hope it helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Natasa Tanasa on Thu, 04/11/2021 - 15:46

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Hello,

Could you please explain to me when is chocolate countable and when uncountable?

Thank you a lot!

Hello Natasa Tanasa,

'chocolate' is a count noun when we use it to speak about a specific quantity, usually a piece that a person eats at one time. Often this small piece of chocolate is packaged for individual consumption. For example, a restaurant I used to go to always put one small piece of chocolate (in individual wrappers) per customer on the table with the bill. So if there were three of us at the table, they gave us three chocolates (three individually-wrapped pieces of chocolate).

In all other situations that I can think of, we use 'chocolate' as an uncount noun.

By the way, this general rule applies to other nouns such as 'water' (we sometimes call a bottle of water 'a water'), 'coffee', 'beer', etc.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Denys on Wed, 06/10/2021 - 11:51

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What's the difference between "positive sentence" and "affirmative sentence"? I believe the first term is lessser-used.

Can't we use "some" in positive / affirmative sentences with Countable nouns? E.g. "There're some bottles of milk in the fridge" by meaning "I don't remember quantity of milk bottles, but I am certain of milk in the fridge".

Hi Denys,

'Positive sentence' and 'affirmative sentence' refer to the same thing. You're right, 'affirmative sentence' is the normal technical term. We've used 'positive' in the explanation above because this page is aimed at A1/A2-level users.

Yes, we can use 'some' in positive/affirmative sentences with countable nouns. As the 'Countable nouns' section above states, 'For positive sentences we can use 'a'/'an' for singular nouns or 'some' for plurals.'

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan,

I wanted to know if the following sentences are affirmative or negative sentences:
1.He is short.
2.Lionel Messi is short.

Hi Monk,

These are both affirmative sentences :) They don't have any negative words in them.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Adrien Tondo on Sat, 05/06/2021 - 08:16

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it is very interesting this lesson

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Wed, 21/04/2021 - 13:13

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Occasionally I mistakenly say 'informations are ...'. Tricky!

Submitted by Hussainhxh on Wed, 21/04/2021 - 00:54

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Very interesting lesson

Submitted by roberto90 on Mon, 12/04/2021 - 10:00

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is this sentence correct as well? I've bought some new shoes but I didn't get any shirt.

Hello again Roberto,

People would understand it, but really 'any' should be 'a'. We use 'any' with plural count nouns (e.g. 'shirts') or uncount nouns (e.g. 'bread') and 'a' with singular count nouns (e.g. 'a shirt').

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sun, 14/03/2021 - 12:28

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Hello admins, I've got a question. Will you please tell me the difference between 'There aren't any seats' and 'There isn't any seat'? ;)

Hello Rafaela1,

They mean much the same thing. The first one suggests that someone was asking or thinking about finding multiple seats and the second one suggests just one seat, but if you asked to enter a place that was already at full capacity, someone might say either or both of them to you with the same meaning.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Sun, 14/03/2021 - 07:02

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Hi, Thanks for the great lessons you're providing us. Just wondering why money is listed under the uncountable nouns while it can be counted in number. for exmp. 1/2/3 dollar. could you please explain it more. Thanks.

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 14/03/2021 - 12:03

In reply to by Maahir

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Hi Maahir,

In your example, it's the word dollar (not the word money) that is countable. The word money is different - it refers to an amount, and is (normally) uncountable. :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Sun, 14/03/2021 - 14:16

In reply to by Jonathan R

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well understood an many thanks for your answer.

Submitted by lipo3 on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 22:17

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Hello and thank you for these great and varied ressources. Being a teacher, is it possible to print the grammar lessons? there s no overhead projector in the classroam making teaching from this website difficult. Thank you.

Hello lipo3,

We're glad that you find the lessons useful. You are welcome to print them as long as the pages clearly indicate that the lesson was written by the British Council and that it comes from our website.

Thanks for asking -- hope that helps you!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Pienk on Sun, 03/01/2021 - 07:48

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hello, I did not understand the complete meaning of uncountable nouns.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 03/01/2021 - 08:21

In reply to by Pienk

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Hello Pienk,

Uncountable nouns are things that we cannot number as individual things but rather see as a quantity.

For example, in my kitchen I have some bananas. I can count them: one banana, two bananas etc. I can add more and have three or four or five bananas.

Now imagine that I take my bananas and crush them because I want to make a banana smoothie. Now I don't have separate bananas; I just have a quantity of crushed banana in a jug, so I say I have 'some banana'. If I add more then I just say 'more banana'. The banana is now uncountable.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cyn nat on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 06:55

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hello, I want to ask, how about hair? Is it countable or uncountable nouns?

Hello cyn nat,

Hair is countable when we are talking about a strands of hair, but it is uncountable when we are talking about hairstyles or appearance:

Look at my jumper. It's got dog hairs all over it.

I love the colour of your hair!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Akash Rathore on Mon, 14/12/2020 - 05:04

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Hello Sir, I have some doubts. Please help me resolve them. Usage of singular and plural verb (has and have). 1. Two and a half year has passed. 2. Two and a half years have passed. how sentences 1 and 2 are correct? 3. One year and a half has passed. ( or have)

Hello again Akash Rathore,

Only 2 is correct. Sentence 3 is correct with 'have'. This is because 'one and a half ' is considered plural.

Please note that it takes us a little time to reply to your comments -- there's no need to ask the same question in more than one place.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Harry on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 08:11

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Hello! I noticed something is strange to understand for me.In test 2, no.6 answer is "much".But the explanation mentioned above said that that answer can be submitted by "any" for uncountable nouns in negative sentences. Would you mind if you correct my opinion?

Hi Harry,

You're right! Any is fine too. I've added it as another answer to question 6. 

Thanks for letting us know about it :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nurieta on Fri, 23/10/2020 - 12:18

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Hi! I have a question. I would like to know, when do you use "a lot of" or "lots of"?. For example: Lots of things are mysteries, or .... Now I have lots of time, could you say too, " a lot of " in both sentences? I don´t understand, if you can use this expression whenever you want. Thanks :)

Hi Nurieta,

Yes! You can use both lots of and a lot of in those examples. They have the same meaning and style. There's no difference between them :)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 16:34

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I'm wondering if "water" is countable or uncountable. For example, is there any difference in meaning between crystal clear water and crystal clear waters? ;)

Hello Rafaela1,

Water is generally uncountable. However, we can say waters when we are talking about a body of water, especially an ocean or sea.

The dictionary offers this definition:

waters plural

(1): a band of seawater abutting on the land of a particular sovereignty and under the control of that sovereignty

(2): the sea of a particular part of the earth

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/water

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter, I think I didn't learn it at school. I see. ;)
Hi Rafaela1! yes there is a difference between water and waters as the water is one source and waters is many sources.

Submitted by mrshk on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 09:04

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Hello, I don't understand why bread is uncountable..

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 07:45

In reply to by mrshk

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Hello mrshk,

Bread is uncountable in English because we use it to mean the foodstuff rather than a single item. When we talk about items we use phrases like this:

a loaf of bread

a slice of bread

a piece of bread

a crust of bread

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 13:33

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When we use "some" in a question expecting the answer will be 'yes', what answer would be possible if the answer is 'no'? Q: Have you got some new glasses? A: No, I haven't got any glasses. No, you're wrong. No, I've got no glasses. No, wish I had.

Hello Rafaela1,

Many responses are possible. You're right that the question suggests an answer, so a negative response is a form of contradiction:

No, actually I haven't.

No, I haven't. Why do you ask?

No, but I wish I had!

It really depends on what the speaker (responder) wants to say and what the two people's relationship is. 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ninel_Georgia on Fri, 04/09/2020 - 11:25

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Hello, ,,when we are offering something or asking for something, we normally use some''. Is it correct to use ,,any'' Ex: Do you want any money?

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 04/09/2020 - 14:26

In reply to by Ninel_Georgia

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Hello Ninel_Georgia,

We typically use 'any' in questions, but it's also OK to use 'some' if you expect people to say 'yes', or if you want to encourage them to say 'yes'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saeomd93 on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 15:57

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If I add "any" in a sentence, it shows that it is already in a "negative" sentence right? Or I really need to put aren't or isn't, to show that is in a negative sentence. Ex: There's any kids at the mall.

Hello Saeomd93,

The negative verb is still needed. It's possible to use any in affirmative sentences with the meaning 'it doesn't matter which one':

Choose a card, any card.

I can take any day off I like.

This programme can open any graphics file.

 

When we use an affirmative verb, we use no to mean not any:

There aren't any kids at the mall.

There are no kids at the mall.

Note that a plural noun and a plural verb is used in both cases.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Pola on Sat, 15/08/2020 - 20:43

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Hi, If I want to say more information ,how can I say it by grammatic although "information" uncountable nouns

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 16/08/2020 - 06:25

In reply to by Pola

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Hi Pola,

It really depends what you want to say and what the context is.

If you are just talking about information in general, then more information is perfectly fine:

Hi. Could I have some more information about this, please?

 

If you want to talk about a single thing then you can use a piece of information:

I have one more thing to tell you and this is a very important piece of information so listen carefully.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shiyashamsu on Sat, 25/07/2020 - 07:20

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I was able to study a lot things about countable and non countable nouns.

Submitted by Fajar Wibisana on Mon, 13/07/2020 - 08:09

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Hello Everyone, In a lesson above we found out that: """"Countable nouns For positive sentences we can use a/an for singular nouns or some for plurals.""""" why we use "some" rather than "many" for singular countable noun?