Saturday, July 9, 2011

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

In Modern English Grammar Nouns are broadly divided into two Categories— (a) Countable Noun (b) Uncountable Noun. 

Countable Nouns:
Countable nouns are easy to recognize. They are things that we can count.
For example: "pen". We can count pens. We can have one, two, three or more pens. Here are some more countable nouns:
  • dog, cat, animal, man, person
  • coin, note, dollar
  • cup, plate, fork
  • table, chair, suitcase, bag
Countable nouns can be singular or plural:
  • My dog is playing.
  • My dogs are hungry.
We can use the indefinite article a/an with countable nouns:
  • A dog is an animal.
When a countable noun is singular, we must use a word like a/the/my/this with it:
  • I want an orange. (Not I want orange.)
  • Where is my bottle? (Not where is bottle?)
When a countable noun is plural, we can use it alone:
  • I like oranges.
  • Bottles can break.
We can use some and any with countable nouns:
  • I've got some dollars.
  • Have you got any pens?
We can use a few and many with countable nouns:
  • I've got a few dollars.
  • I haven't got many pens.
Uncountable Nouns:
Uncountable nouns are substances, concepts etc that we cannot divide into separate elements. We cannot "count" them. For example, we cannot count "milk". We can count "bottles of milk" or "litres of milk", but we cannot count "milk" itself.

Uncountable nouns (also Known as non-count nouns or mass nouns)

A) 1. Names of substances considered generally.

  • bread              cream             gold                paper              tea
  • beer                dust                ice                   sand                water
  • cloth                gin                  jam                  soap                wine
  • coffee             glass              oil                    stone                wood

2. Abstract nouns:

  • advice            experience                horror                         pity
  • beauty            fear                            knowledge                 relief
  • courage          help                          knowledge                 suspicion
  • death              hope                         mercy                          work

3. Also considered uncountable in English:
  • Baggage                    damage                     luggage                      suspicion
  • camping                     furniture                     parking                        weather
These, with hair, information, knowledge, news, rubbish, are sometimes countable in other languages.

B) Uncountable nouns are always singular and are not used with a/an:
  • I don't want (any) advice or help.
  • I want (some) information.
  • He has had no experience in this sort of work.
These nouns are often preceded by Some, any, no, a little etc. or by nouns such as bit, piece, slice etc.+ of:

  • a bit of news             a grain of sand                     a pot of jam
  • a cake of soap          a pane of glass                   a sheet of paper
  • a drop of oil               a piece of advice

C) Many of the nouns in the above groups can be used in a particular sense and are then countable and can take a/an in the singular. Some examples are given
below.
Hair (all the hair on one's seed) is considered uncountable, but if we consider each hair separately we say one hair, two hairs etc:
Her hair is black. Whenever she finds a grey hair she pulls it out.
We drink beer, coffee, gin, but, we can ask for a (cup of ) coffee, u gin, two gins etc, We drink wine out of glasses. We can walk in woods. experience meaning ‘something which happened to someone is countable:
He had an exciting experience/some exciting experiences (= adventure/s ) last week.
work meaning ‘occupation/employment/a job/ jobs’ is singular:
  • He is looking for work/for a job.
  • I do homework.
  • she does housework.
But roadwork's means 'repair of roads'

works (plural only) can mean ‘repair of roads’.
works (plural only) can mean ‘factory’ or ‘moving parts of a machine’
works (usually plural) can be used of literary or musical composition:
  • Shakespeare's complete works.
D) Some abstract nouns can be used in a particular sense with a/an, but in the singular only:
a help:
  • My children are a great help to me.
  • A good map would be a help.
a relief:
  • It was a relief to sit down.

a knowledge + of:
  • He had a good knowledge of mathematics.
a dislike/dread/hatred/horror/love + of is also possible:
  • a love of music .
  • a hatred of violence.
a mercy/pity/shame/ wonder can be used with that-clauses introduced by it:
  • It's a pity you weren't here.
  • It's a shame he wasn't paid.
E) a fear/fears, a hope/hopes, a suspicion/ suspicions
These can bane used with that-clauses introduced by there:
  • There is a fear/There are fears that he has been murdered.
We can also have a suspicion that.....
Something can arouse a fear/fears, a hope/hopes, a suspicion/suspicions.

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