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

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Average: 2.1 (7 votes)

Hello Jmj,

Paper can be either.

When we mean paper for writing on it is uncountable: I need some paper.

If we want to ask for one piece of paper then we have these options: I need a piece of / a sheet of paper.

 

When, on the other hand, we want to talk about a newspaper the word is countable: I buy two newspapers every day.

We can also use the countable word to mean documents, especially formal documents such as contracts: I left the papers on your desk for you to sign.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SuetyLattice182 on Thu, 15/09/2022 - 16:51

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thank you very much, i'm learning English.

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 17/03/2022 - 17:49

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Hello. Could you please help me choose? Why? I think both are OK.

- My father has a lot of (friendship, friendships).

Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I think the most natural thing would be to say '...a lot of friends'. However, of the two you have here I think 'friendships' is the best choice if you want to say how popular he is.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by maccachi on Thu, 10/03/2022 - 02:10

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Hello. I was teaching my student using this lesson, and when we were doing the Grammar test 2, we came across sentence 4, "I need some information about train times." My student's answer was "a lot of information" but it was not accepted. Can you please tell me why only "some" can be accepted in this case? I've gone over the theory part but I can't see any reason why "a lot of information" can't be accepted. Thank you so much.

Hello maccachi,

The quantifier 'a lot of' is not grammatically incorrect here but it's hard to think of a context in which it would be used.

We would say 'some information' whenever asking for information unless for some reason we felt the need to warn the other person that we are asking for something unusual. For example, if I had a very long list of questions then I might say 'a lot of information' as a kind of apology, with the sense of 'Sorry I have so many questions'. However, even then we would probably phrase it differently:

"Hi. I need some information about train times. I've got a lot of questions actually - sorry about that!"

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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