Today’s lesson is all about countable and uncountable nouns. These are not always as easy as you might think. Have a go at my quiz and test your knowledge!
Quiz: choose the correct word
The answers are at the end of this post but don’t check them just yet! Here are a few things to think about first.
Countable or uncountable?
Most of you have probably learnt that countable nouns are things that you can count. Simple, right? Usually, yes, but it isn’t always as obvious as that. It isn’t always logical. For example, “vegetables” are countable but “fruit” is uncountable. How can you possibly count noodles? But “noodles” is a countable word, as you can see because it ends in -s. This is crazy, right?!
I remember a student once asked me, “Why are peas countable? Who counts peas?!” Well, no sensible person is going to waste time counting peas but you could say “There’s a pea on the floor. Can you pick it up?” “A pea” means “one pea”. Also, the word has two forms - “pea” and “peas” - so it’s a countable noun.
Here’s another example. Did you know that “headache” is countable? It’s true that you probably won’t hear people say “one headache” or “two headaches” but we do say “I have a headache” and “I’ve been getting a lot of headaches recently” so it’s countable.
Another problem is that words might be countable in your language but uncountable in English. “Information”, “advice”, “furniture” and “bread” are words that are uncountable in English even though they are countable and can be plural (plural = more than one) in a lot of other languages. Similarly “spaghetti” is a plural word in Italian but we treat it as an uncountable noun in English.
A common confusion is words that have irregular plurals. The plural of “person” is “people”, the plural of “tooth” is “teeth” and the plural of “sheep” is “sheep”. These are all countable nouns even if there is no -s on the end. See this post for more information.
And while I’m here, let me mention plural nouns. These are nouns which are always plural, such as “clothes”, “trousers” and “scissors”. These behave a bit like countable nouns in some ways because they end in -s and take the plural verb, but in other ways, they are like uncountable nouns because you can’t use “a” or numbers.
Have a look at this list of countable and uncountable nouns, some of which might surprise you!
Now how about the quiz? You might want to go back to your answers now and check them for yourself. Then have a look at my answers and explanations below.
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