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Learn About Uncountable Nouns

Uncountable nouns are the nouns that cannot be counted or measured by a number and cannot be made plural.

Usually the words 'some', 'much', or 'a lot of' come before uncountable nouns. Some people call uncountable nouns "mass nouns" or "noncount nouns".

Examples of uncountable nouns:

1. The water seems to be crystal blue. Water is undefined, it cannot be counted.
2. The cupcakes were made with love. Love cannot be measured or counted.
3. John spilled the milk. Milk cannot be measured by how many.
4. We like listening to the saxophone music. Music is uncountable since it cannot be measured.

Categories of Uncountable Nouns
There are different types of uncountable nouns and each belong to a different category.

The table below shows the categories (on left) and the uncountable nouns that belong to each.

Groups of Objects homework information mail news
Abstract Words courage envy health time
Activities & Sports ballet football hockey research
Fields of Study anthropology astronomy engineering photography
Foods corn fruit lettuce pasta
Gases air nitrogen oxygen smog
Languages English Arabic German Spanish
Liquids blood coffee gasoline milk
Materials concrete glass leather iron
Particles pepper salt rice sand
Weather cold lightning sleet steam

Read the example sentences below. Here, each uncountable noun is underlined.

1. The teacher always gives a lot of homework.
  • Homework is a group of objects. We are not counting separate homework assignments.
2. "I don't think I will make it there with any time to spare," Brian said.
  • Time is an abstract word. We are not counting hours or minutes.
3. My brother plays football outside constantly.
  • Football is a sport. We are not counting individual footballs or football players.
4. I will study engineering in college.
  • Engineering is a field of study. We are not counting people who study engineering.

Nouns : Countable and Uncountable

Some nouns can be countable or uncountable. Be sure to pay attention to how these types of nouns are used in a sentence.

If you can count the person, place, or thing and make it plural, it is a countable noun.

If you cannot count the person, place, or thing and you cannot make it plural, it is an uncountable noun.

Read the example sentences below to see how the same noun can be used as a countable noun and as an uncountable noun.

Countable Nouns Uncountable nouns
  • The Italian bakery sells delicious breads. (kinds of bread)
  • My mom bakes the best homemade bread.
  • Stan bought six coffees to go. (six cups of coffee)
  • Mary drinks a lot of coffee everyday.
  • Yesterday, I made a cake by myself. (one cake)
  • Grandma likes to eat cake.
  • They had interesting experiences on their trip (separate experiences)
  • Sid has no experience as a teacher.
  • She pulled out a strand of my hair. (one hair strand)
  • It's time to cut my hair.

Determining Nouns as Countable or Uncountable
Countable nouns tell how many, while uncountable nouns tell how much. When you encounter a noun and you are unsure whether it is countable or uncountable, ask yourself how many there are of the noun in the sentence.

Read the examples below to determine whether the nouns are countable or uncountable.

1. The recipe calls for sugar.
How much sugar does the recipe needs? The noun is uncountable because the quantity is undefined.

2. He can juggle five balls at once! 
How many balls he can juggle? The noun is countable because it is defined by the quantity, five. © 2014. All Rights Reserved.