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In linguistics, a count noun (also countable noun) is a noun that can be modified by a numeral and that occurs in both singular and plural forms, and that co-occurs with quantificational determiners like every, each, several, etc. A mass noun has none of these properties, because it cannot be modified by a numeral, cannot occur in plural, and cannot co-occur with quantificational determiners.

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  • ✪ English for Beginners: Countable & Uncountable Nouns
  • ✪ English Grammar Tricks - Countable & Uncountable Nouns


Hello. My name is Emma, and in today's video I'm going to teach you about countable and uncountable nouns. We can also call these "count nouns" and "non-count nouns". So, let's begin by first talking about: What is a noun? So, a noun is a word that is a person... It can be a person, so: "Emma", that's a noun; "teacher", that's a noun. It can be a place. "Russia" is a noun. "School" is a noun. It can be an animal; a dog. "Dog" is a noun. The word "cat" is a noun. It can also be a thing. This marker... The word "marker" is a noun. Okay? And it can also be a feeling. "Happiness" is a noun. So, a noun is a person, a place, a thing, an object, an animal. There are many things that are nouns. What a noun is not is it's not an action, like a verb; it's not a description, like an adjective; and it's not a preposition, like the word "on" or "off". Okay? A noun is, like I've said before, one of these things. So, in English... Well, actually, first let's do something. Let's underline the nouns just to make sure we have this concept. So, my first sentence is: "Canada is a large country." So let's underline the nouns, here. Well, "Canada" is a place, so we know "Canada" is a noun; "is" is a verb; "large" - this is a description; "country". "Country" is a place; this is also a noun. "My teacher is funny". "Teacher" is a person, so this is a noun; "funny" is a description, it's an adjective, it's not a noun. "The dog", so we have "dog" is an animal; "cats", "cats" are nouns; and we have the word, here, "friends". The word "friend" is also a noun. Okay? So, these are all nouns. So, in English, we have two types of nouns; we have countable nouns and we have uncountable nouns. It's important to know if a noun is countable or uncountable, because this is going to tell us if we use words, like: "a" in front of the word, and it will also tell us which words we cannot use with these words. So... And whether or not we need to add an "s" to the end of the noun if there's more than one. So, in this video, we are going to talk about countable nouns with many examples and uncountable nouns. So, let's look at countable nouns first. Okay, so we're going to start with countable nouns first. So, the first thing you need to know with a countable noun is when we have a countable noun, we need to put an "a" or an "an" in front of it. So, for example: "I have a dog. I have a computer. I have a lamp. I have a chair." So, notice I'm putting "a" in front of all of these. If the noun starts with a vowel sound, so for example: "a" is a vowel, "e", "i", "o", "u" - these are all vowels. And if it starts with a vowel sound, then we use "an". "I have an apple. I have an egg. I have an ant." Okay? So, we use this if the first... The first sound of the word is a vowel. So, the second thing you need to know is that with countable nouns a lot of the time we can count them. Okay? So we can often... A countable noun is something you can count, or... Usually it's something, or an animal, or, you know, a place - it's something you can count. So, for example: "I have a book." This is one book. "I have two books.", "I have three books." So, this... You can count books and it's a countable noun. "I have two chairs. I have five dresses." These are all countable nouns. When we have more than one countable noun, so for example, here we have one, here we have two. If we have more than one-so two, three, four, five, six-we need to add an "s". This shows us that there is more than one. And also notice that we don't need this in front of the noun anymore. So, we cannot say: "a books", because the "s" means there's more than one, so this would not match. Okay. What else do we need? So, we need an "s" or an "es" if we have more than one of this type of object or noun. Here's another example: "I have one sister.", "I have three sisters." So, notice here, you can count the number of sisters I have, and so I've added an "s". Now, we have some exceptions. For example, the word "moose". You can count the number of moose, but we never add an "s". It's... It's a strange exception. In English, you'll notice we have a lot of exceptions. We break rules a lot of times in English and that's okay. It's the same with "fish". You can count the number of fish, but we don't... You change this word if there's more than one. I can't say: "I have five fishes." Okay? I would say: "I have five fish." So, sometimes there are exceptions with count nouns or countable nouns. Now let's look at: What is an uncountable noun, and how is it different? Okay, so we've talked about countable nouns; now we're going to talk about uncountable nouns or we can call them non-count nouns. Okay? So that means the same thing. An uncountable noun is a noun where you do not use "a" or "an" in front of it. Okay? So, for example, an uncountable noun is "happiness". I do not say: "a happiness". Okay, so that's no. So, we do not use "a" or "an". We also don't add "s" or "es". Okay? And the reason we don't add "s" or "es" is because the idea of uncountable is you can't count it. Now, there are many exceptions to this, but in general, an uncountable noun is something you can really count. So I want you to think, for example, of happiness. Can you count happiness? Can you say: "One happiness, two happiness; my friend has five happiness"? You can't really count it. It's the same with words, like: "sadness" or with, you know, "stress". These are things that are abstract and they're things you can't really count. Okay? So, because of that, we do not add "s" or "es" to uncountable words. Another thing you'll find with uncountable words, and this is where it kind of gets a bit tricky, is a lot of uncountable nouns are actually categories. So, for example: "furniture" is an uncountable noun. In English, you don't count furniture. So, you would... You would not add an "s" to the word "furniture"; it's always the same. "I have furniture at my house." I do not say: "I have a furniture." No. In English, you can't do that. You say: "I have furniture." There is no "a" or "an". It's the same with the word "clothes". "Clothes" never changes; it always stays the same. I cannot say: "I have a clothes." I cannot say: "I have four clothes." Okay? In English, we can't do this, and this is because these are categories. It's the same with "money". And a lot of students get really frustrated with this, because in their language, you can count these things. So, I understand that and I understand, you know, languages are very different, but in English you cannot count these things in the same way. They're considered categories. So, in English, I cannot say: "I have five money." And I also don't add an "s" to "money". It always stays the same. I can say: "I have a lot of money" or "I have no money", but I can't actually put a number in front of money. So, what can you do is... We're looking at categories, there, but within each category there are things you can count. So, for example: "furniture" is uncountable, but tables, chairs, desks, refrigerators, ovens - these are all things we can count. So, "furniture" does not have an "s", but these other words do within the category. "Clothes", again, we never change it; it always is the same, but types of clothes we can have as countable. So, we can have five dresses, you know, 10 socks. So, you can count a lot of clothes. With "money", we don't... Like I said, we don't add an "s", but we can count coins. Okay? So we can count coins. "I have five coins. I have seven bills." So, within the category, you can count, but the category itself we cannot put an "s" on that because it is an uncountable noun. A lot of the times different types of food and different types of drinks are also uncountable. So, for example: "milk". We do not count milk. In English, we can't say: "I have one milk. I have six milk." What we can do is we can add a container to this word or we can add an amount, so that's okay. So, what we can say is: "I have a glass of milk." Okay? Or: "I have five glasses of milk.", "I have two cups of milk." So, "milk" itself never changes, but the quantity or the amount can. It's the same with, for example, "juice". "I have eight cups of juice", but "juice" itself... The word "juice", we can never say "juices". Okay? So that... It doesn't change because it's an uncountable noun. And we'll look at more examples of this in full sentences in a moment. "Mustard" or "ketchup", these are more examples. We do not say: "I have 10 or 20 mustards." No. We can't count this, so we always keep it the same; or we can add a container or a quantity. "I have five bottles of mustard." Okay? So... And it's the same with these words, too. "I have 10 pieces of furniture." So, we can put a quantity in front, but the actual word itself is an uncountable noun. So, let's look at more examples of this. Okay, so we're going to do a little bit of practice; but before we begin, I want to again say that there are many, many exceptions to what I am saying, meaning usually this is... What I'm telling you is the truth or what I'm telling you is accurate, but every so often there are some words that are not going to follow these rules. Okay? So, when you come across these words, just remember: Don't get frustrated; English is not a perfect language and not everything follows the rules, but we're trying our best. So, let's look at some of these nouns and I want you to tell me: Are they countable or uncountable? The first one is "English". English is a thing, it's a language, it's a noun. Can we count English? Okay? Would we say: "I have a English"? Can I say: "Englishes"? No. So, "English" is uncountable. Okay? It never changes; it always stays the same. You can say: "I like English." There is no "a" in front of "English". What about "student"? Can you count student? Teachers do this all the time; they count the number of students in their class. "There are 10 students in my class", so "students" is countable. So, if I want to count students... Maybe there are five students, so I could put a five here. And if there's more than one, what do I have to do with a countable noun? We add an "s": "students". What about this word: "bottle"? Okay? Like, a bottle of water. Can you count bottles? Yes, you can. So, we consider "bottles" countable. "I have one bottle.", "I have five bottles." Okay? So, in this case, imagine I have one, I can say: "I have a bottle." It's a countable noun. "Water". Can we count water? "Water" is considered uncountable. Okay? Now, you might be yelling at your computer, saying: "But I can count water! I can!" And you might have water, here, and say: "Look, this is a water." But this is actually not a water; this is a bottle of water. "Water" itself we don't count. We count water in bottles, or in litres, or in jugs. So, "water" itself is uncountable. We do not add an "s". Okay. It is uncountable. But "bottle" or "a bottle of water" is something we can count. "Cellphone". Can we count cellphones? Cellphones are countable; they are a countable noun. So, if we have more than one cellphone... If we have two cellphones, we're very lucky - we can add an "s". What about "shoe"? "Shoe", we can actually say "shoes". Shoes are countable. "I have shoes." Okay? I have... "I have one shoe. Here are two shoes, three shoes, four shoes", so we can count shoes. We often talk about "a pair of shoes", but we can also count shoes individually. What about "sadness"? Can you count sadness? Can you say: "Oh, that man, he's really sad - look, he has 100 sadnesses"? No. We cannot count sadness; it's a feeling. It's something we can't really count. This is uncountable, so we do not add "a". Okay. I can say: "I have sadness"; there's no "a" in front of it. Last one we're going to look at here: "coffee". So, coffee... Remember food... Or food and drinks are often uncountable. We can talk about a cup of coffee, but we're counting the cup. Coffee itself we consider uncountable. So, usually we don't say "coffees". Okay, but again, there's always exceptions and sometimes people use... You know, they might go to a restaurant and actually... They might say: "I'll have a coffee", so you might actually hear that. It's going against the grammar rule, but people are starting to say things like that. I don't want to confuse you more, but in terms of the grammar rule, "coffee" is uncountable. Okay? So now let's look at a couple other words we use which are important when we're learning about countable and uncountable. Okay, so we've talked about countable and uncountable nouns. Now, there are some words we use with only countable nouns and other words we use only with uncountable nouns. So, right now we're going to learn about "many" and "much". So, let's start with "many" because it's a little easier. "Many" is used with countable nouns, and it means a lot. So, for example: "I have a lot of friends. I have many friends." So, it's when we're not giving a specific number. "I have five friends" I can say, but I can also say: "I have many friends." Maybe I have 10 dogs. That's not true, but imagine that. That's a lot of dogs, so I can say: "I have many dogs." We use "many" for countable nouns. A way to remember is, like I said before, you use "an" or "a" with countable nouns, and "many" has "an" in it. That's a little memory trick. Okay? So if you want to remember: "many" - oh, "an", "an"; we use "an" for countable nouns - we use "many" for countable nouns. "Much" is used for uncountable nouns. So, "much" means the same thing. Okay? It means a lot, and we use "much" for uncountable. So, for example: "money". I told you before money is uncountable, so we could say: "I don't have much money. I don't have much furniture. I don't have much coffee." Okay? So, "much" is used with uncountable nouns. Now, a lot of students get really stressed about this, and they say: "'Much', 'many', 'count', 'uncountable' - ugh, this is terrible. I don't remember any of it." Here is the trick. This is good to learn, but if you don't know and you're really stressed, you can use "a lot" for both countable and uncountable nouns. Okay? So: "I don't have a lot of money. I don't have a lot of friends.", "I have a lot of friends. I have a lot of money." Okay? So, if you don't know, use this. So, we've learned a lot today about countable and uncountable nouns, and this is something that requires a lot of practice. Okay? So, I invite you to come check out our website at, and there you can actually do a quiz where you can practice identifying countable and uncountable nouns, and using these in sentences. So, I highly recommend you take our quiz. I also recommend you subscribe to my channel, because there are a lot more resources on all sorts of different topics, related to grammar, vocabulary, writing, reading, and many more. So, thank you for watching, and until next time, take care.



Below are examples of all the properties of count nouns holding for the count noun chair, but not for the mass noun furniture.

  • Occurrence in plural/singular.
There is a chair in the room.
There are chairs in the room.
There is chair in the room. (incorrect)
There is a furniture in the room. (incorrect)
There are furnitures in the room. (incorrect)
There is furniture in the room.
Every chair is man made.
There are several chairs in the room.
Every furniture is man made. (incorrect)
There are several furnitures in the room. (incorrect)

Some determiners can be used with both mass and count nouns, including "some", "a lot (of)", "no". Others cannot: "few" and "many" are used with count items, "little" and "much" with mass. (On the other hand, "fewer" is reserved for count and "less" for mass (see Fewer vs. less), but "more" is the proper comparative for both "many" and "much".)

Grammatical distinction

The concept of a "mass noun" is a grammatical concept and is not based on the innate nature of the object to which that noun refers. For example, "seven chairs" and "some furniture" could refer to exactly the same objects, with "seven chairs" referring to them as a collection of individual objects but with "some furniture" referring to them as a single undifferentiated unit. However, some abstract phenomena like "fun" and "hope" have properties which make it difficult to refer to them with a count noun.

Classifiers are sometimes used as count nouns preceding mass nouns, in order to redirect the speaker's focus away from the mass nature. For example, "There's some furniture in the room" can be restated, with a change of focus, to "There are some pieces of furniture in the room"; and "let's have some fun" can be refocused as "Let's have a bit of fun".

In English, some nouns are used most frequently as mass nouns, with or without a classifier (as in "Waiter, I'll have some coffee" or "Waiter, I'll have a cup of coffee"), but also, less frequently, as count nouns (as in "Waiter, we'll have three coffees.")


Following the work of logicians like Godehard Link and linguists like Manfred Krifka, we know that the mass/count distinction can be given a precise mathematical definition in terms of notions like cumulativity and quantization. Discussed by Barry Schein in 1993, a new logical framework, called plural logic, has also been used for characterizing the semantics of count nouns and mass nouns.[1]

Linguistic differences

Some languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, treat all nouns as mass nouns, and need to make use of a noun classifier (see Chinese classifier) to add numerals and other quantifiers. The following examples are of nouns which, while seemingly innately countable, are still treated as mass nouns:

  • 那个人吃完了 (nà gè rén chī wán le) – "That unit person has eaten", "That person has eaten"
  • 那三个人吃完了(nà sān gè rén chī wán le) – "Those three unit person' have eaten", "Those three people have eaten"
  • 她有七本书 (tā yŏu qī bĕn shū) – "She has seven unit book", "She has seven books."

A classifier, therefore, implies that the object(s) referred to are countable in the sense that the speaker intends them to be enumerated, rather than considered as a unit (regardless of quantity). Notice that the classifier changes as the unit being counted changes.

Words such as "milk" or "rice" are not so obviously countable entities, but they can be counted with an appropriate unit of measure in both English and Mandarin (e.g., "glasses of milk" or "spoonfuls of rice").

The use of a classifier is similar to, but not identical with, the use of units of measurement to count groups of objects in English. For example, in "three shelves of books", "shelves" is used as a unit of measurement.

On the other hand, some languages like Turkish treats all the nouns, even the not so obviously countable entities as count nouns.

  • Pirinçler daha tam pişmemiş. – "The rice (lit. rices) hasn't been cooked well yet"
  • Sütler hep yerlere döküldü. – "The milk (lit. milks) has been spilled all over the floor (lit. floors)"
  • Nehirlerin suları çok güzel akıyor. – "The rivers' water (lit. waters) flows very nicely"
  • Parasız kişiler için kitaplar dağıtıyorlar. – "They are distributing books for the people without money"

Even then, it's possible to use units of measures with numbers in Turkish, even with the very obviously countable nouns. Note that the Turkish nouns can't take a plural suffix after the numbers and the units of measure.

  • Beş bardak süt – "five glasses of milk"
  • İki kaşık dolusu pirinç – "two spoonfuls of rice"
  • Üç tane kişi – "three units of person"
  • Dört metrekare yer – "Four square meters of floor"
  • Yedi raf kitap – "seven shelves of books"

See also


  1. ^ Nicolas, D. (2008). "Mass nouns and plural logic" (PDF). Linguistics and Philosophy. 31 (2): 211–244. doi:10.1007/s10988-008-9033-2. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
This page was last edited on 4 June 2019, at 18:03
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