What are countable and uncountable nouns?
A countable noun consists of individual people, animals, places, things, or ideas that can be counted. Uncountable nouns are not individual objects and cannot be counted.
The types of nouns considered countable include concrete, collective, and proper nouns.
- A concrete noun refers to something that can be identified through one of the five senses: ducks
- A collective noun denotes a singular group: family
- A proper noun designates specific people, places, or things: Italians
Uncountable nouns, also called mass nouns, are thought of as wholes rather than individuals. These nouns typically refer to abstract ideas (such as emotions), so they are usually abstract nouns. But they can be concrete and collective nouns, too, depending on their function in a sentence.
- Abstract Noun: The advice Greg received from his father helped him tremendously.
- Concrete Noun: The price of oil continues to increase.
- Collective Noun: When will the food be ready?
Though “food” is considered a singular group, it cannot be counted in this context.
Countable and uncountable nouns grammar rules
Countable and uncountable nouns follow a variety of grammatical rules in English:
Grammar rules for countable nouns include the following:
- Can be singular or plural
- Become plural by adding an "s" or "es" to the end of the word
- May use either singular or plural verbs
- The indefinite articles "a" and "an" can be used with singular countable nouns
- Plural countable nouns do not need an article but may use determiners like “these” or “a few.”
Grammar rules for uncountable nouns include the following:
- Only have a singular form
- Cannot be used with an article ("a" or "an")
- Require singular verbs
- To make uncountable nouns plural, pair with countable nouns
Examples of countable and uncountable nouns
Examples of countable nouns include the following:
- Travis took a variety of pictures on his vacation. (concrete)
- Wendy left her lunch on the kitchen table. (concrete)
- The Museum of Art had several new paintings. (concrete)
- After a long day, the children quickly fell asleep. (collective)
- Mike can play many different instruments. (collective)
- They saw many politicians entering the Capitol. (collective)
- Despite moving to Florida, he will always be a Pennsylvanian. (proper)
- Alana enjoys visiting New York. (proper)
- Ted shops at Target. (proper)
Examples of uncountable nouns include the following:
- Mary listed all of the key facts of the investigation. (abstract)
- They all thought Alex was a true patriot. (abstract)
- Betty felt that love was in the air. (abstract)
- After a dry summer, there is less water in the pond. (concrete)
- Help yourself to the food in the refrigerator. (concrete)
- The air felt thick after the thunderstorm. (concrete)
- Sarah enjoys eating fruit for breakfast. (collective)
- Could you please fill the shaker with salt? (collective)
- The government declared today was a national holiday. (collective)
Nouns are used to form complete sentences, and countable and uncountable nouns are two types of nouns among many others.