What Are Countable and Uncountable Nouns?
A countable noun, like apples and bottles, can be counted. An uncountable noun, like love and oxygen, cannot be counted. Countable nouns can be preceded by the indefinite article “a” or “an,” or by a number, whereas uncountable nouns cannot.
Countable Nouns vs. Uncountable Nouns
What do puppies, dinosaurs, giraffes, and donuts have in common?
They’re countable nouns—meaning they can be counted. Their counterparts are uncountable nouns, which, as you may have guessed, are nouns that cannot be counted: happiness, air, water, research, advice, etc.
There’s a bit more to the difference between countable and uncountable nouns, which we’ll examine thoroughly below.
What Are Countable Nouns?
Countable nouns (also known as count nouns) differ from uncountable nouns in that they: can be counted, can be preceded with the articles “a,” or “an,” or a number, and usually have singular and plural forms.
Sloane was looking for a jacket.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
I read ten books this past summer.
There were a total of 15 doctors at the national conference.
In the examples above, jackets, apples, books, and doctors are countable nouns.
Examples of Countable Nouns
Remember, nouns that can have singular and plural forms are countable nouns. A few examples are:
- penny/pennies, horse/horses, color/colors, candle/candles, key/keys, alarm/alarms, flower/flowers
What Are Uncountable Nouns?
Uncountable nouns (also known as non-count or mass nouns) can’t be counted, can’t be used with “a,” “an,” or a number, and usually only have a singular form. These tend to include things like liquids and abstract ideas, but also nouns like bread and rice.
I need to buy honey at the market.
He asked for some advice.
Happiness is running through me.
She showed a great display of bravery.
You have probably heard someone say, “Can I have a water?” And although you most likely understood them, what they meant was, “Can I have a bottle of water?”
The only way the amount or quantity of an uncountable noun can be determined is if a quantifier like much or a little comes before it.
I needed a bit of milk.
He was asking for
He was asking for information.
He was asking for a lot of information.
Examples of Uncountable Nouns
Other examples of uncountable nouns include:
love, hate, envy, snow, oxygen, information, humanity, cooperation, furniture
Nouns That Can Be Countable and Uncountable
There are nouns that can be countable and uncountable, depending on the meaning of the word and the context of the sentence. Take the word light as an example.
When I went outside, the bright light of the sun took me by surprise.
They switched on the lights of the cabin.
Because the light of the sun is something that cannot be counted, it’s considered an uncountable noun in the first sentence. However, in the second sentence, light refers to lamps or light bulbs, things that can be counted.
Count on LanguageTool
If you want to be certain whether a noun is countable or uncountable, you can always check the dictionary, or you can simply use LanguageTool as your intelligent writing assistant. Not only will the multilingual spelling and grammar error ensure you’re using nouns correctly, but it can also check for various types of errors and help rephrase your sentences.