Unit 69. countable and uncountable nouns (2) – grammar in use

A.
Many nouns can be used as countable or uncountable nouns, usually with a difference in meaning. Compare:
#1 Countable
* Did you hear a noise just now? (= a particular noise)
* I bought a paper to read. (= a newspaper)
* There’s a hair in my soup! (= one single hair)
* You can stay with us. There is a spare room. (= a room in a house)
* I had some interesting experiences while I was away. (= things that happened to me)
* Enjoy your holiday. Have a good time!
#2 Uncountable
* I can’t work here. There’s too much noise. (not ‘too many noises’)
* I need some paper to write on. (= material for writing on)
* You’ve got very long hair. (not ‘hairs’) (= all the hair on your head)
* You can’t sit here. There isn’t room. (= space)
* They offered me the job because I had a lot of experience. (not ‘experiences’)
* I can’t wait.

I haven’t got time.

B.
Coffee/tea/beer/juice etc. (drinks) are normally uncountable:
* I don’t drink coffee very often.
But they can be countable when you are thinking of a cup/a glass etc. So you can say:
* (in a restaurant) Two coffees and an orange juice, please.

C.
There are some nouns that are usually uncountable in English but often countable in other languages. For example:
Accommodation behaviour damage luck permission traffic bread furniture luggage progress weather chaos information news scenery work
These nouns are usually uncountable, so:
i) you cannot use a/an with them (you cannot say ‘a bread’, ‘an advice’ etc.) and
ii) they are not normally plural (we do not say ‘breads’, ‘advices’ etc.).
* I’m going to buy some bread. or.. a loaf of bread. (not ‘a bread’)
* Enjoy your holiday! I hope you have good weather. (not ‘a good weather’)
* Where are you going to put all your furniture? (not ‘furnitures’)
News is uncountable, not plural:
* The news was very depressing. (not ‘the news were’)
Travel (noun) means ‘travelling in general’. You cannot say ‘a travel’ to mean a journey or a trip:
* We had a very good journey. (not ‘a good travel’)
Compare these countable and uncountable nouns:
#1 Countable
* I’m looking for a job.
* What a beautiful view!
* It’s a nice day today.
* We had a lot of bags and cases.
* These chairs are mine.
* It was a good suggestion.
#2 Uncountable
* I’m looking for work. (not ‘a work’)
* What beautiful scenery!
* It’s nice weather today.
* We had a lot of luggage. (not ‘luggages’)
* This furniture is mine.
* It was good advice.



Unit 69. countable and uncountable nouns (2) – grammar in use