You are here

Countable and uncountable nouns 1

Do you know how to use a, some, any, much and many?

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

Language level

Beginner: A1
Pre-intermediate: A2

Comments

Hello and thank you for these great and varied ressources.
Being a teacher, is it possible to print the grammar lessons? there s no overhead projector in the classroam making teaching from this website difficult.
Thank you.

Hello lipo3,

We're glad that you find the lessons useful. You are welcome to print them as long as the pages clearly indicate that the lesson was written by the British Council and that it comes from our website.

Thanks for asking -- hope that helps you!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

hello,
I did not understand the complete meaning of uncountable nouns.

Hello Pienk,

Uncountable nouns are things that we cannot number as individual things but rather see as a quantity.

For example, in my kitchen I have some bananas. I can count them: one banana, two bananas etc. I can add more and have three or four or five bananas.

Now imagine that I take my bananas and crush them because I want to make a banana smoothie. Now I don't have separate bananas; I just have a quantity of crushed banana in a jug, so I say I have 'some banana'. If I add more then I just say 'more banana'. The banana is now uncountable.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello, I want to ask, how about hair? Is it countable or uncountable nouns?

Hello cyn nat,

Hair is countable when we are talking about a strands of hair, but it is uncountable when we are talking about hairstyles or appearance:

Look at my jumper. It's got dog hairs all over it.

I love the colour of your hair!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
I have some doubts. Please help me resolve them.
Usage of singular and plural verb (has and have).

1. Two and a half year has passed.

2. Two and a half years have passed.

how sentences 1 and 2 are correct?

3. One year and a half has passed. ( or have)

Hello again Akash Rathore,

Only 2 is correct. Sentence 3 is correct with 'have'. This is because 'one and a half ' is considered plural.

Please note that it takes us a little time to reply to your comments -- there's no need to ask the same question in more than one place.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello! I noticed something is strange to understand for me.In test 2, no.6 answer is "much".But the explanation mentioned above said that that answer can be submitted by "any" for uncountable nouns in negative sentences.
Would you mind if you correct my opinion?

Hi Harry,

You're right! Any is fine too. I've added it as another answer to question 6. 

Thanks for letting us know about it :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages