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 (157 votes)

Submitted by NguyenCongTinh on Mon, 15/07/2024 - 02:28

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Hi, 

Could you explain why we use "some" in the sentence: "We have got some chicken but there isn't any rice".

From my point of view, the word "chicken" is the singular nouns, therefore we should to use " a chicken" not "some chicken"

Hello NguyenCongTinh,

if you look at the question immediately below this in the comments section you'll see the answer. Users of the site often have the same or similar questions so it's good to check the comments section before asking - the answer may be already waiting for you!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by UchihaHirato on Sat, 13/07/2024 - 03:06

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excuse me I have a question.

We've got some chicken but there isn't any/much rice.

I think chicken is singular but why use ''some''.

Hello UchihaHirato,

 You're right that chicken is a countable noun when we are talking about the bird. However, when we are talking about the meat it is uncountable just like other kinds of meat: some chicken, some pork, some turkey, some beef, some fish etc.

You can read more on this topic and see some examples here:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/nouns-countable-and-uncountable 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Wed, 10/07/2024 - 15:07

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Hello,

The word color can be countable or uncountable. Could you tell me when I should treat it as an uncountable noun?

Hello Khangvo2812,

You can check this kind of thing in an online dictionary. For example, you can see a definition here:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/colour

[ U ]

the pleasant effect of a bright colour or of a lot of colours together:

  • I think we need a bit of colour in this room.
  • Red and yellow peppers give a little colour to the sauce.
  • ablaze with colour literary The whole garden was ablaze with colour (= full of different bright colours).
  • a riot of colour literary The whole garden was a riot of colour (= full of different bright colours).

The [U] at the top of the definition shows it refers to the uncountable meaning. You can see other meanings, both countable and uncountable, on that page too.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Darkmirage on Fri, 07/06/2024 - 03:54

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Dear English Team,

I have a problem with the usage of "is /are". If you help me, i will be so happy. Which one is correct?

Water and milk is cheap

or
Water and milk are cheap

Hi Darkmirage,

It should be: Water and milk are cheap. Even though both are uncountable, they are two separate things in this sentence.

However, if two separate things together make a unit of something (e.g. fish and chips = a dish / a meal), use "is": Fish and chips is a traditional British dish.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Aung Qui on Sun, 28/01/2024 - 07:38

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Hello,
I want to ask a question.Can I answer 'any' in Grammar Test 2 No.7. Why is the answer 'any shirt'?