This is an aspect of English that can be confusing, especially because nouns that are considered countable or uncountable are different in other languages. We’ve picked out the most common cases where you need to understand the differences between whether a noun is countable or uncountable and how this impacts on the other words in the sentence.
Nouns that refer to things that can be treated as separate items for example: cars, books and windows are countable nouns.
Nouns that refer to things that can’t be separated into individual items and are a mass or substance, like water, sand and fun are uncountable nouns.
Why does it matter?
Countable nouns can be singular or plural, (a car, 3 cars). However, uncountable nouns are never used in the plural but we can use them with ‘quantifying expressions’ for example a bit of or a piece of.
You will most commonly find uncountable nouns that refer to
- substances: water, sand, chocolate
- some non-physical things or concepts: advice, fun, work
- groups of things: furniture, equipment, rubbish
Let’s fix the mistakes in these examples:
X She gave me some advices
-> she gave some advice
->she gave me a piece of advice
X There’s no such thing as too many fun
-> There’s no such thing as too much fun
X I had lots of works to do this week
-> I had lots of work to do this week
-> I had many tasks to do this week
X The book was full of informations
->The book was full of information
-> The book was full of facts
X I bought new furnitures
->I bought some new furniture
-> I bought some new pieces of furniture
X He uses a lot of equipments
-> He uses a lot of equipment
X Pick up the rubbishes!
-> Pick up the rubbish!
Fewer or Less?
Whether a noun is uncountable or countable also determines the quantifiers* we use:
Uncountable: much, less
Countable: many, fewer
I want to work less. (work = uncountable)
I want to work fewer hours. (hours = countable)
There is too much water in the glass. (water = uncountable)
There are too many bottles on the table. (bottles = countable)
Let us know if you have any more examples!
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*a quantifier is a word that expresses an amount or quantity of something