Teachers' blog


【Countable and Uncountable (part 1)】

(Contributed by Ben)
In classes, when I’m giving language advice and corrections, I often talk about countable and uncountable nouns. Countable nouns can be counted, of course: they normally have an article (the, a, an) or a plural. Uncountable ones can’t be counted.

Countable nouns include jobs, people, an egg, a dog, and other things like that.

Uncountable nouns include stuff, honey, love and traffic. You never need to talk about ‘stuffs’!

It seems simple enough, but there are some confusing points. Literally, you can count money (because you count the notes and coins) but the noun ‘money’ is uncountable. You’d never say ‘a money’, or ‘moneys’.

A lot of words have countable and uncountable forms. ‘Do you have time?’ or ‘do you have some time?’, mean do you have time right now? ‘A time’ would mean a particular time, and you could do something ten times. (Confusingly, ‘do you have THE time?’ means ‘please tell me what time it is, because I don’t have a clock’).

A lot of foods have countable and uncountable forms too: one cake (countable) is made of cake (the material, which is uncountable). You could say ‘I ate a lot of cheese’ (referring to the material) or ‘I ate a lot of cheeses’ if you wanted to make it clear you had different kinds of cheese. ‘Coffee’ is normally uncountable, but if you say ‘A coffee’ it’s countable, and refers to a cup of coffee. ‘I have a lot of tea’ has an obvious meaning, but ‘I have a lot of teas’ would mean I have a lot of different kinds of tea.

Copyright © 2014 NTT Learning Systems Corporation. All Rights Reserved.