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Countable nouns vs. uncountable nouns

Countable nouns, as the name suggests, are nouns of things you can count. All countable nouns will have a singular and a plural form, even if they are coinciding (that is, they can be the same word).

  • One friend, two friends.
  • A star, some stars.
  • This pen, these pens.
  • One curtain, many curtains.
  • One fish, many fish.
  • A deer, multiple deer.

Most plural forms of countable nouns are formed by adding an –s to the singular form

However, some plurals can further alter the word.

  • One goose, two geese.
  • One mouse, many mice.
  • This child, these children.

Countable nouns ending in –f or –fe will be pluralised with –ves

  • One calf, many calves.
  • This knife, these knives.
  • A wife, some wives.

Countable nouns ending in –o will be pluralised with oes

  • One potato, many potatoes.
  • A tornado, two tornadoes.
  • A tomato, some tomatoes.

Countable nouns ending in –y or –ie will be pluralised with ies

  • One felony, many felonies.
  • A peony, two peonies.
  • One sharpie, two sharpies.

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Uncountable nouns

As opposed to countable nouns, uncountable nouns cannot be counted. Therefore, they do not have a plural form.

  • Some milk, but never one milk, or many milks.
  • Some rice, but never one rice, or many rices.
  • Other examples are power, luggage, advice, money, water…

Many vs. Much

We use the determiner many for countable nouns.

  • I have many friends.
  • There were many dogs.
  • You can do it in many ways.
  • I saw so many trees.
  • You have too many worries.

We use the determiner much for uncountable nouns.

  • You put too much oil in!
  • I don’t have much milk left.
  • There’s so much sunlight coming through my window.
  • Do you have much luggage to load in the truck?

Essential English Grammar – A Friendly Approach

Lesson #36: Countable and uncountable nouns

Nouns are words that we use to refer to people, places, or things. Generally speaking, adjectives and adverbs modify nouns. We’re going to focus on:  countable, uncountable, proper, common, concrete, abstract, collective and compound nouns. 

Countable nouns are nouns of things that you can count, things that can be either singular or plural. All countable nouns have a singular and plural form. I.e., friend/friends, star/stars, eye/eyes, phone/phones, (singular and plural form).

Uncountable nouns are nouns that cannot be counted. They don’t have a plural form. I.e., milk, electricity, power, rice, water, money are all uncountable nouns, and they have no plural form.

Context

  • Good evening, Steve. What are you cooking?
  • I’m cooking some rice1 with curry.
  • Hmm,2 sounds delicious. You have a lot of rice in the pan, are you having friends3 over?
  • Well, I only have enough knives4 and forks for three people, so I just invited my parents
  • What about me?
  • You’re going to be left out I’m afraid.
  • That’s not very nice. You really need to get some5 more cutlery6 you know…
  • I agree. First in, first serve7 I guess.
  • I’ll be seeing8 you tomorrow.
  • Good day.

Analysis

  1. Rice: Rice is an uncountable noun, so there is no plural form. You cannot say, rices. This would be incorrect.
  2. Hmm: this is what we call an interjection in English. They have no grammatical value and basically represent sounds. Others include, grr, ow! Ah etc.
  3. Friends: is a countable noun. You can say friend or friends (adding an s to make the plural form).
  4. The noun knives: is the plural form of knife. Nouns ending in -f or ­-fe are pluralised with -ves. For example: calf – calves, wife – wives.
  5. The determiner, some: is being used because it’s followed by an uncountable noun, cutlery. Determiners are normally used with uncountable nouns in English.
  6. Cutlery: is an uncountable noun. We cannot say a cutlery, but we can say, the cutlery, some cutlery or much cutlery.
  7. First in, first serve: Is an expression basically meaning, whoever comes first, can have the first serving.
  8. I’ll be seeing: the future continuous form which is will + be + verb + ing. We use the future continuous to talk about an action or situation in the future that will be happening.

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