Countable and uncountable nouns 1

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

Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.
Average: 2.1 (7 votes)

Submitted by lersy on Wed, 30/11/2022 - 11:33

Permalink

Can you explain the difference between the expression "a lot of", and "lots of"
it has anything to do with the noun being plural or singular or it has to do with countable or uncountable ?

Hello lersy,

I know it must seem strange, but both mean exactly the same thing, and both can be used with plural countable nouns and also with uncountable nouns. Neither form is formal, but I'd say 'lots of' is even more informal than 'a lot of'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JameK on Thu, 24/11/2022 - 06:53

Permalink

Sir, I would like to know when dessert is countable and when it is uncountable.
Look at the dessert/desserts on the menu.
Which one should I choose. Sir, could you explain me the difference please.

Hello JameK,

It really depends on the situation, but as a general rule, I'd say 'dessert' is uncountable when we're talking about food as a 'course' (see the definition under course noun (MEAL)). For example, 'For dessert you can choose between ice cream or a slide of cake' or 'This restaurant has lots of different options for dessert'. (Note that in the phrase 'for dessert', 'dessert' is usually uncountable.)

When we're talking about a specific kind of sweet food, it's generally countable. For example, 'This restaurant has lots of different desserts.'

I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but I hope that helps you as a general rule.

In the case of the sentence you ask about, 'desserts' is probably the best choice since the speaker seems to be interested in the different options on the menu.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by TeachTeachTeach on Fri, 21/10/2022 - 06:30

Permalink

Hello dear team,
I have a question. Is it always necessary to use ANY in negative sentences or is it accepted and sound correct without it. So, are there sentences correct:
1. I don't have brothers or sisters.
2. I don't have friends.
3. I don't have money.

Hello TeachTeachTeach,

The general rule is to use 'any' in sentences like these, where the answer is negative. There may be a few exceptions to this general rule, but they are rare. I'd recommend sticking to this general rule. If you've found a sentence where 'any' is not used, please feel free to ask us about it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alianazihah on Sun, 18/09/2022 - 02:41

Permalink

Hi! I have a question.

Why could bread and cake both be countable and uncountable?

Thank you!

Hi alianazihah,

In the information on this page bread is listed as uncountable. You can also find several comments explaining this below, including one from me which gives several phrases used for describing bread in countable ways (a loaf of bread, a slice of bread etc).

Cake, on the other hand, can be both countable and uncountable. We use it as a countable noun when we are talking about individual cakes such as muffins or eclairs - items which you can buy numbers of: I'd like three cakes, please.

We use cake as a uncountable noun when we are thinking of a quantity which we divide before eating or serving. In this case we can say 'a cake' but we can also say 'some cake' and 'a piece (slice) of cake'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team