Uncount nouns

Level: beginner

Some nouns in English are uncount nouns. We do not use uncount nouns in the plural and we do not use them with the indefinite article a/an:

We ate a lot of food. (NOT foods)
We bought some new furniture. (NOT furnitures)
That's useful information. (NOT a useful information)

We can use some quantifiers with uncount nouns:

He gave me some useful advice.
They gave us a lot of information.

Uncount nouns often refer to:

Substances: food, water, wine, salt, bread, iron
Human feelings or qualities: anger, cruelty, happiness, honesty, pride
Activities: help, sleep, travel, work
Abstract ideas: beauty, death, fun, life

Common uncount nouns

Some common nouns in English like information are uncount nouns even though they have plurals in other languages:

advice accommodation baggage equipment
furniture homework knowledge luggage
machinery money news traffic

Let me give you some advice.
How much luggage have you got?

Common uncount nouns 1

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If we want to make these things countable, we use expressions like:

a piece of ... a bit of ... an item of ...
pieces of ...  bits of ... items of ... 

Let me give you a piece of advice.
That's a useful piece of equipment.
We bought a few bits of furniture for the new apartment.
She had six separate items of luggage.

However, accommodation, money and traffic cannot be made countable in this way. We need to use other expressions:

I've lived in three flats/apartments. (NOT bits of accommodation)
Smith received three large sums of money. (NOT pieces of money)
We got stuck in two traffic jams. (NOT pieces of traffic)

Common uncount nouns 2

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Common uncount nouns 3

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Hello ninoosha,

When we use a plural collective noun like 'pieces', 'lots', 'sets' and so on we use a plural verb. Therefore 'are' is correct here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter, Thank you for your reply. What about when I use a determiner like some? would it still follow the same rule you mentioned? it may sound strange but I found both form of the verb after that, i.e. there are some furniture left / there is some furniture left OR there was some old furniture / there were some old furniture Regards

Hello ninoosha,

'Furniture' is a uncount noun and is always singular. Therefore we would use a singular verb and say 'is' or 'was'. Using a plural verb here would not be correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

tssang 提交于 周日, 26/03/2017 - 16:15

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Hello , I saw the following sentence in an English exercise book. "With the development of smart card technology, it will have possibly in the near future that you need to carry only one card . " It asked where the two mistakes in the sentence are. I don't know if the "of" is to be replaced by "in", or "will" to be replaced by "may" for the first answer? That is : "development of" to be "development in" ? or "it will have " to be "it may have"? "possibly" to be replaced by "possibility" or "possibilities" for the second answer? Please tell me the two answers with explanation. Thank you.

Hello tssang,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers for tasks from outside of our own pages. If we did, then we would end up doing everyone's homework and tests for them!

Your book should have a key with it which contains the answers. Failing that, you can ask your teacher for help.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

umakanthan 提交于 周六, 18/03/2017 - 13:40

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Sir, if travel is an uncount noun, then is the sentence "In all his travels he studied only the phenomena of nature and human life." wrong?

Hello umakanthan,

No, the sentence is not wrong. 'Travel' is uncountable when it describes the concept of moving from place to place, as in the well-known saying travel broadens the mind, for example.

However, in certain contexts it is possible to use 'travel' as an alternative to 'journey' and then it can be countable. It has limited use, however. We would not use it to describe our own journey in normal conversation, but rather in the kind of context you have above: biographies and literary works.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

nadarali1996 提交于 周五, 03/03/2017 - 05:57

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Hello Sir, I can hope you are fine; therefore, I strongly need your help for the following sentences regarding Nouns/adjectives Complement. 1)He is a boy.( In this sentence the complement is a noun.) 2)He is good.( In this sentence the complement is an adjective .) 3)He is a good boy.( In this last sentence both an adjective and a noun are used so what complement,so should it be called?) Thanks a million in advance.(Advanced.)

Hello again nadarali1996,

'a' is a determiner, 'good' is an adjective and 'boy' is the noun. All together they form a noun phrase that is in this sentence functioning as a complement. You can learn more about this on our noun phrase page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

nadarali1996 提交于 周三, 01/03/2017 - 19:46

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Hello , Sir. I hope you are fine and fit,moreover you,your team, are doing very well. I have a got question in my mind regarding the topic of uncountable nouns is that sometimes we can use some abstract nouns with a/an , as follows: (i) a help: My children are a good help to me. This pill might be a good help. (ii) a knowledge +of: My teacher has got a good knowledge of English literature. (Resource: A practical English Grammar By A.J Thomson & A.V Martinet) so sir, would you mind telling me in which way and what words can be used with a/an being an abstract noun?

Hello nadarali1996,

That's very observant of you! It is possible to use the indefinite article with abstract nouns to indicate a specific kind or instance of that abstract noun. In your example with your kids, they give you a certain kind of help, and in the case of your teacher, she has a certain kind of knowledge, i.e. knowledge of English literature. As far as I know, you could use the indefinite article in this way with any abstract noun, as long as you can speak of a certain kind of that abstract noun.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

naghmairam 提交于 周三, 08/02/2017 - 06:05

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Hi, Can we use 'it' as the pronoun for collective noun such as a team. For example, is the following sentence correct? Though England lost eight wickets, it scored 300 runs. Thanks

Peter M. 提交于 周三, 08/02/2017 - 08:36

naghmairam 回复

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Hi naghmairam,

Collective nouns such as this can be treated as either singular or plural so both 'they' and 'it' are possible. However, there are conventions of use which determine which of these is more common, and it is much more common to use 'they' here than 'it'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

alicewirek 提交于 周一, 06/02/2017 - 09:44

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How is the word "information" pronounced in French?

Agnes Nguyen 提交于 周四, 05/01/2017 - 01:44

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Hi there, So abstract nouns are mass nouns, no plural forms, aren't they? But some nouns in term of philosophy such as morals, beliefs, ethics,.... do take plural form but I feel they are as abstraction category! Many thanks!

Hello Agnes,

Many abstract nouns are uncount nouns, though there some are count nouns. Some of them are always plural, and others can be plural and singular.

If you look up 'ethics' in the dictionary, you'll see that it is an uncount noun, but there is a singular form for 'beliefs'. 'morals' is always plural, though the word 'moral' exists. Please take a closer look at all of these words in the dictionary and then let us know if you have any questions about them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

nishantaims 提交于 周四, 29/12/2016 - 08:04

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HELLO SIR, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 'IN THE NIGHT' AND 'AT NIGHT'? e.g. I WENT THERE IN THE NIGHT [OR AT NIGHT]? e.g. I STUDY IN THE NIGHT [OR AT NIGHT]? SOME SAY THAT 'AT NIGHT ' IS USED FOR ROUTINE WORK WE DO AND 'IN THE NIGHT' FOR A SPECIFIC INCIDENCE! THANK YOU, SIRE!

Hello nishantaims,

This is explained on our time and dates page. I'd encourage you to use our search box - see the small magnifying glass at the top right of every page - as it might help you find answers to your questions.

Please also note that writing in all CAPITAL LETTERS in English is like shouting when speaking, which is generally considered impolite by most English speakers. I'd suggest you not write this way, as some people might misunderstand.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

A K Pathak 提交于 周日, 11/12/2016 - 22:53

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sir, 'Thomson's poetries are very charming.' what is wrong in this sentence? 'A poet and a writer is dead.' Why we can not use 'are' in place of 'is'? 'I saw two beautiful fish in the pond.' If i use 'fishes' in place of 'fish' then which type of mistake is this?

Peter M. 提交于 周二, 13/12/2016 - 06:49

A K Pathak 回复

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Hello A K Pathak,

We're happy to answer questions about the materials on our pages, or even (if time allows) more general questions about English or learning English. However, we don't provide answers for tasks from elsewhere (other sites, tests or homework) such as these questions.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

A K Pathak 提交于 周日, 11/12/2016 - 21:02

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Hello Sir, "I bring fruit and vegetables from the market." in this sentence can i use 'fruits' instead of 'fruit' ?

Hello A K Pathak,

Yes, you could say 'fruits' here. It would mean different kinds of fruit (some apples, some grapes, some peaches etc).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

santisair 提交于 周四, 17/11/2016 - 16:01

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Hi, I want to ask you about "food" vs "foods". Can you explain to me the different between these two words? when do we have to use "food" or "foods"? Thanks

Peter M. 提交于 周五, 18/11/2016 - 06:47

santisair 回复

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Hi santisair,

In general, 'food' is anything we eat. The less common 'foods' is used when we want to distinguish between different types of food. For example, we might say:

In this shop you can find many different ethnic foods from around the world.

If you have a particular example in mind we will be happy to comment on it, of course.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply sir. But, i wonder whether i have already had a good comprehension or no. Am i correct if say like these two sentences ? I want to eat some food. >>> (i use "food" because i don't say the type of food) I want to eat some chinese foods. >>> (i use "foods" because i say specific type of food) Thanks

Hello santisair,

In both of these cases we would use 'food'. We use 'foods' very rarely, as I said, and really only when we need to differentiate between some kinds of categories - it is a way of saying 'kinds of food' but unless we have a particular reason that 'food' is not clear then we tend to use the uncountable form.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Andrew international 提交于 周六, 15/10/2016 - 03:44

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Dear Sir I want to make sure using parts of 'be' with uncount nouns. Help me to make this clear. Could I say: 'There are some furniture in the room.' 'Some equipment in the work shop are unserviceable.' Thank you in advance. Regards Andrew international

Hello Andrew international,

Only count nouns can have plural forms and take plural verbs. Uncount nouns require singular verbs. Therefore, you should use is and not are in your sentences.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir Thank you very much for your reply regarding uncount nouns and matching verb. Please clarify this too: There are only a few pieces of furniture.( a part of the exercise you have given) Could I say 'those are useful pieces of equipment.' (my own sentence) Thank you. Regards Andrew international

Hello Andrew international,

Yes, that would work.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

MCWSL 提交于 周一, 26/09/2016 - 12:14

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Hello. I was wondering about uncountable nouns that have a plural form, yet they take singular verbs. For example: News is very important because... Although ''news'' takes singular verb, ''glasses'' takes a plural verb: These glasses are perfect, and I can see... How can I understand what to use? Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

'news' is an uncount noun, but 'glasses' is a plural count noun – this is why the first takes a singular verb and the second a plural verb.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, I have to ask that we can count money in numeral so why we say that "Money" is uncount noun. as the mentioned above money is uncount noun.

Hello Imran 26,

It might be helpful to think that there's always a way to count anything physical, but words like 'money' allow us to think about these things in general. In any case, I'm afraid that's just the way English is. It reminds me of the word 'baksheesh', which is also uncount – not sure if it is in Urdu or not, but perhaps it is and that might help you think about it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hi peter, in this sentence that's a good idea can we use a in that

Hello marshood,

If you look up 'idea', you'll see it is a count noun. So, yes, in fact you should use 'a' in most cases, unless the good idea you're referring to is already known or has been mentioned, in which case you should use 'the'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

belka30 提交于 周六, 27/08/2016 - 09:45

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Hello! I have a question about nouns potato,bean,cabbage, onion, tomato. I know that they are countable. But can these nouns be used as uncountable and when? When we can say: How much potato(os) (bean/beans, etc)?

Hello belka30,

Many of them can be used as uncount nouns. For example, 'potato' can be used as an uncount noun - follow the link to the dictionary entry - note that it says [C or U] (which means 'count or uncount'). In general, however, these are used more often as count nouns. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello panjie,

Welcome to LearnEnglish! I'm sure you'll have a great time improving your English with us. To get started, I recommend taking a look at our help pages, which you can find here. Just click on the links to see our best tips and suggestions.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, I am also a new member here, but found this is very interesting program for busy people like me to improve our language. Much appreciated for your help. Best regards

Mohammad56 提交于 周四, 19/05/2016 - 15:00

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Hello. Is this sentence correct? The two foods which we ate at restaurant were good.If not please write the correct form. Thanks a lot

Hello Mohammad56,

It's hard to be certain without knowing the full context but I would expect that the correct form would be:

The two foods which we ate at the restaurant were good.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I think the correct way to say that sentence would be: The two types of food that we ate at the restaurant were good.

aesa006 提交于 周三, 23/03/2016 - 07:18

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Hey, is "food" considered as uncount noun. If yes, can you tell me if this sentence is correct? "7 foods that make you feel gross" Please advise

Hello aesa006,

That sentence is correct. 'Food' can be both count and uncount. When we use it to mean 'types of food' or 'foodstuffs' we use it as a count noun.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

aesa006 提交于 周日, 20/03/2016 - 11:50

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Hello Sir, I would like to ask regarding this topic as i have seen that machinery & equipment are words that are included for uncount noun. Does this mean that we cannot say machineries & equipments because both dont have any plural forms? Or is it because this topic focuses only for "british english" not the US one. Please advise