Nouns: countable and uncountable

Nouns: countable and uncountable

Do you know how to use a, some, any, much and many? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

Average: 4.1 (151 votes)
Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Tue, 07/02/2023 - 17:52

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Hello. Could you please help me choose the correct answer? I think both answers are OK, right?
- My father has a lot of (friends - friendship).
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both are grammatically correct. The quantifier 'a lot of' can be used with both count nouns ('friends') and uncount nouns. The word 'friendship' can be countable (in this case it means relationships with friends) or uncountable (in this case it means the feeling you have towards a friend), which may be why you're not sure about it.

'My father has a lot of friendship' sounds quite unnatural to me, so I'd recommend not using it. It is grammatically correct, though.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by disconzi on Fri, 27/01/2023 - 13:32

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Hello Team,

In the above explanation:
Notice that we don't usually use many or much in positive sentences. We use a lot of instead.
E.g. They have a lot of money.
What if I say: I have many friends.
Is it wrong?

Thanks in advance.

Mara

Hello doconzi,

No, it's certainly not wrong. It is less common, however, which is why we say 'we don't usually...'

Many and much have a more formal tone in affirmative sentences and can even sound old-fashioned, but they are not grammatically incorrect.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by helen G on Tue, 10/01/2023 - 12:06

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Hello,
I have a question regarding to There Is/There Are + Nouns in a series or list.

For example: There is/are a box and a pen in my bag.

Regards,
Helen

Hello helen G,

Good question. 'there is' is the best form to use when a list of items follows: 'There's a box and a pen in my bag'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MisterKay on Thu, 22/12/2022 - 09:02

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Would we use 'is' or 'are' in this sentence and why? My students are confused about this.

* Sugar, water, and milk ______ added.

Hello MisterKay,

We would say 'are' because we have three different ingredients. Even though each ingredient is uncountable, there are three of them and so a plural verb is needed.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team