You might not have heard of countable and uncountable nouns before. However, it is useful to know the difference, as they work slightly differently with certain words. In this post, we explain how to use them correctly.
Quite simply, countable nouns are things that can be easily separated or counted. For example, we can refer to three apples, five people, or six guitars. These are also referred to as “count nouns.”
When a noun can be counted, we can use words like “number” (e.g., “a large number of eggs”) and “fewer” (e.g., “I have fewer eggs than you”) with it. We can also say “an egg” or “some eggs,” depending on the number described.
Certain things, such as butter or water, cannot be counted as they are typically an undifferentiated mass. Other examples include “sand,” “milk,” and “coffee.”
Many abstract concepts are uncountable nouns, too, including “music,” “love,” “happiness” and “sadness.” Uncountable nouns are also known as “mass nouns.”
As with countable nouns, we have specific words we use with uncountable nouns. For example, “amount” (e.g., “a large amount of sand”) instead of “number” and “less” (e.g., “there is less sand here than I thought”) instead of “fewer.” We can also say “some butter,” refer to a certain weight, such as “100g of butter,” or say “the butter,” but we never say “a butter.”
Countable or Uncountable
If in doubt about a particular word, ask whether it easily be counted or separated into distinct units. If it can be, it is probably a countable noun.
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