You are here

Common problems with count and uncount nouns

Level: beginner 

Substances as count or uncount nouns

Substances are usually uncount nouns:

Would you like some cheese?
Coffee keeps me awake at night.
Wine makes me sleepy.

but they can also be used as count nouns:

I'd like a coffee, please. = I'd like a [cup of] coffee.
May I have a white wine? = May I have a [glass of] white wine?
They sell a lot of coffees. = They sell a lot of [different kinds of] coffee.
I prefer white wines to red. = I prefer [different kinds of] white wine to red.
They had over twenty cheeses. = They had over twenty [types of] cheese.
This is an excellent soft cheese. = This [kind of] soft cheese is excellent.

Substances as count or uncount nouns 1


Substances as count or uncount nouns 2


Nouns with both a count and an uncount form

Some nouns have both a count and an uncount form. Their meanings are closely related:

George had hopes of promotion.
We should always have hope.

There's a danger of avalanches on the mountain.
Some people enjoy danger.

Level: intermediate

Nouns with two meanings

Some nouns have two meanings, one count and the other uncount:

Can I have a glass of water?
I cut myself on some glass.


Is English a difficult language?
Linguistics is the study of language.

The Times is an excellent paper.
It's made of paper.

Other nouns like this are:

business industry property wood
power time work hair
Nouns with two meanings 1


Nouns with two meanings 2


Uncount nouns that end in –s

Some uncount nouns end in –s. They look like plural count nouns, but they are not.

Nouns like this generally refer to:

Subjects of study: mathematics, physics, economics, etc.
Activities: gymnastics, athletics, etc. 
Games: cards, darts, billiards, etc.
Diseases: mumps, measles, rabies, etc.

Economics is a very difficult subject.
Billiards is easier than pool or snooker.

Uncount nouns that end in –s




Hi guys,
I want to know something.I saw this sentence while I was reading a book.
'I missed the last metro home and had to get a taxi.'

Then, I searched the noun on the Internet which I had never seen
-metro home-, but I couldn't find anything.Whats the meaning of that noun?
and Have you ever seen that phrase? Is it common?
Thanks a lot!

Hello Nevı,

This sentence has different chunks (parts) than what you are thinking. One chunk is 'I missed the metro' and another is 'home', which here is a short way of saying 'going home' or 'that goes to my home'. In other words, this person missed the last metro that they needed to take in order to get home that day.

We often use 'home' after a noun phrase like this. You could also say, for example, 'the bus home', 'a flight home', etc.

Hope this makes sense.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Teacher, can we use for other places such as the bus restaurant, the flight London, the train stadium...?
Could you tell me
Thanks a lot!

Hello Nevı,

No, those are not correct -- you need to say 'the flight to London', 'the train to the stadium', etc.

The word 'home' is unusual and can be used adverbially without the preposition 'to' -- you can see an explanation of this on this page -- look for the paragraph beginning 'We use home as an adverb ...' and you'll see what I mean.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team


Hello please clarify
The sky is blue in color
I had egg and toast for breakfast
We spent the day sitting in the garden
There's no electricity in the town because of the floods
Here color,Breakfast, day, garden,town, floods
countable-- or uncountable?

Hi there:
Please could you explain to me why INDUSTRY is a count noun in the exercise "The automobile INDUSTRY is a vital part of the United States economy"?
Thanks a lot.

Hi Claudia,

For industry, the countable and uncountable nouns have slightly different meanings. The uncountable noun means 'companies and activities that produce goods or services'. The countable noun is more specific. It means 'companies and activities that produce a specific good or service'. That's why it's countable here – it refers to a specific industry (rather than goods or service production in general).

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I would like to ask something about the sentence that I quoted from BBC Food:

Each serving provides 285 kcal, 20g protein, 33g carbohydrates (of which 11g sugars), 7g fat (of which 3g saturates), 6g fibre and 0.8g salt

Why is that used
33 carbohydrates

of which 11g sugars

3g saturates
carbohydrate, sugar and saturate are uncountable in this context. Aren't they?
And why we don't use salt, fibre with plural form if we use the above ones with plural forms.

Hi knownman,

You're right that it would also make sense to use uncountable forms here. But using plural countable forms is the way that recipes are normally written. They give a sense that there are a number of different types.

- carbohydrates (e.g. sugars, starches)
- sugars (e.g. glucose, fructose)

With 'salt', my guess is that recipe writers use 'salt' (uncountable) rather than 'salts' (countable) because, although there are many types of salt in the world, salt in food is mostly a single type (sodium chloride).

Best regards,

The LearnEnglish Team

This is really helpful. Thanks.