Countable and Uncountable Nouns: Rules and Examples

Countable Nouns

Countable nouns refer to items that can be counted, even if the number might be extraordinarily high (like counting all the people in the world, for example). Countable nouns can be used with articles such as a/an and the or quantifiers such as a few and many. Look at the sentence below and pay particular attention to the countable noun:

Here is a cat.

Cat is singular and countable.

Here are a few cats.
Here are some cats.

Other examples of countable nouns include house, idea, hand, car, flower, and paper.

Uncountable Nouns

Uncountable nouns are nouns that come in a state or quantity that is impossible to count; liquids are uncountable, as are things that act like liquids (sand, air). Abstract ideas like creativity or courage are also uncountable. Uncountable nouns are always considered to be singular, and can stand alone or be used with some, any, a little, and much. See the examples below for reference:

An I.Q. test measures intelligence.

Intelligence is an uncountable noun.

Students don’t seem to have many homework these days.

Because homework is an uncountable noun, it should be modified by much or a lot of, not many.

Students don’t seem to have much homework these days.
A lot of equipment is required to play hockey safely.

Additional examples of uncountable nouns include water, soil, love, literature, and dust.

Both Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Some nouns can be both countable and uncountable, depending on the context of the sentence. Examples of these versatile nouns include light, hair, room, gear, art, and science. See the examples below:

Did you have a good time at the party?

Here, time is countable (a time).

I don’t think I have time to do my hair before I leave.

In this sentence, time is uncountable.

There is some juice on the table.
There are some juices on the table.

In the first sentence, juice refers to the liquid beverage; thus, it is uncountable. In the second sentence, juice refers to the different varieties of juice (e.g., apple, grape, pineapple, etc.), and therefore, is considered a countable noun.

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