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Tutoring & Academic Success Centre

formerly known as The Learning Centre

Tutoring & Academic Success Centre

Count & Non-Count Nouns

The Basics

Nouns can be divided into either countable or non-countable.

Countable Nouns Non-Countable Nouns
Nouns that can be counted
Example: Three books, Ten years ago
Nouns that can’t be counted
Example: milk, water, rain, electricity, wind, baseball, French, psychology
We can count a glass, but we cannot count milk. However, we can count a glass of milk.
We don’t always indicate quantity with specific numbers. Sometimes we use noun quantifiers to indicate approximate amount and these vary according to whether the noun is countable or non-countable.
Some noun quantifiers
For Countable nouns:A couple of, a few (+ variations: fewer, fewest, etc), both, each, every, many, one (+ variations), several. Both Count & Non-Count Nouns:All, a lack of, a lot of, any, a piece of, enough, no, none (+ variations), more, most, plenty of, some, the. For Non-Count Nouns:A good deal of, a little (+ variations: little, etc), less, much.
Caution: Some uncountable nouns can be countable depending on the context in which they are used. Example: I cut my hair (non-count) We found 2 hairs in our meal (count)
They have a class this afternoon.I have too many classes this semester. Our teacher assigned homework for next class.I have to do a lot of homework this weekend.

Additional Details

Non-count items that cannot be counted include:

  • Wholes (collection): luggage (as opposed to suitcase), groceries (vs. apples), meat (chicken), sand (grains of sand), grass (blades of grass)
  • Abstract ideas: Truth, Wisdom, Faith, Sanity
  • Academic fields of study: Math, History, Biology
  • Liquids, Gases, Materials and Foods: Water, Helium, Rubber, Lamb
  • Recreational activities: Soccer, Yoga, Poker, Running
  • Natural phenomena: Rain, Darkness, Fog, Humidity
  • Languages: French, English, Japanese, Arabic
  • Health conditions: Cancer, Flu