Non-count (Uncountable) Nouns Explanation

Non-count, or uncountable nouns, are more complex than countable nouns because you cannot add -s or -es at the end of the word to make them plural. Instead, you must have a container word. As an example, if you wanted to count tea, you would say, “I have three cups of tea.” Tea is a noncount noun and cups is the container word. Another example of what you could say is: “I have two gallons of milk.” Most noncount nouns have more than one container word. Take a look at the following examples:

  • weather, lightning, thunder
  • fruit, fish, salt, rice
  • tea, coffee, water
  • chess, homework, music
  • courage, fun, honesty

Most of the time, the articles “a”, “an”, and “the” are not needed for non-count nouns.You would not normally see “a furniture” or “an enjoyment” in writing. You can use articles when you use a container word. Take a look at these examples:

  • a bowl of soup
  • a cube of ice
  • a closet of clothing

Here are some examples of the words “some” and “any” being used with non-count nouns. Don’t forget they can also be used with count nouns.

  • Molly does not have any coffee in her mug.
  • We have some watermelon on our plates.

The words “a little” and “much” can never be used with countable nouns. When you see these, you will automatically know that you are seeing uncountable nouns. Here are a few examples:

  • We only have a little bread left.
  • The sunshine is much brighter than the moonlight.

Take a look at the following table comparing countable and uncountable nouns. The countable nouns are container words for the uncountable nouns:

COUNTABLE UNCOUNTABLE
bowl soup, oatmeal, popcorn
cup coffee, tea, soda
liter water
spoonful sugar
gallon milk
dollar, pound, yen, dinero money
pinch salt, pepper
can modeling clay, paint
box toys
drop blood, gas, water

A common problem that most non-native English speakers have is that they don’t understand what a countable noun is. They either forget to make the noun plural or they make an uncountable noun countable.

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