A simple guide to uncountable nouns

A simple guide to uncountable nouns

Some nouns are “uncountable”. These are things that are a concept, or not easy to divide.

A noun is a thing, e.g. cat, room, exam. Most of the time, we can talk about how many of these things we have:
Bobby has three cats at home!
It’s amazing how many rooms are empty in our school.
I have three exams on my birthday.

These are known as “countable” nouns.

But some nouns are “uncountable”. These are things that are a concept, or not easy to divide. In general, we do not make them plural, or say how many we have.

Here are some common examples to be aware of:

Weather words

weather, rain, sun, thunder, lightning, snow, hail, wind

Words for collections of things

furniture, luggage, rubbish, equipment, money, food

Words for ideas and experiences

advice, information, news, progress, work, luck, fun, education, democracy, intelligence, travel, permission, knowledge, experience, understanding

Energy words
heat, electricity, magnetism

Food words
milk, water, juice, oil, bread, cheese, butter, garlic, rice, soup, jam, honey, pasta, seafood, sauce, meat, sugar, flour

Material words
wood, glass, metal, stone, cloth, paper, gold, ice, plastic, sand

Other
love, hatred, music, art, noise, help, time, sleep, nature, wildlife


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While they cannot be made plural some uncountable nouns are a bit confusing because they end in “s”, eg

politics, economics, trousers, shorts, scissors

However, when we use these words, we treat them like they are plural, eg
The shorts are red.
NOT
The shorts is red.

One notable exception is “news”, which looks like a plural, but is singular

The news is good.
NOT
The news are good.

Quantity words come in handy when talking about uncountable nouns

When we need to explain how much of an uncountable noun we have, we use quantity expressions eg

a piece of, a block of, a bag of, a litre of, a metre of, a spoonful of, a pair of, a box of, a can of, etc

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