Countable and Uncountable Nouns

In these lessons, we will learn to distinguish between countable and uncountable nouns. We will also learn how to use the articles ‘a’, ‘an’ or ‘the’ for countable nouns.

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Related Pages
Plural Nouns
Collective Nouns
Gender Nouns
More English Topics

Countable Nouns

Most nouns are countable nouns, or count nouns. They are called countable nouns because they refer to people or things that can be counted.

How to use the articles - a, an, the?

The following figure shows how to use the articles - a, an, the. Scroll down the page for more examples and solutions.

Articles A, An, The

When you are talking about only one person, animal, place, or thing, you can put a or an before the noun.

a dentist an apple
a child an egg
a spider an ice cream
a lady an owl
a park an umbrella

We put an before words beginning with vowels (a, e, i, o, u). But some words do not follow this rule. For example, some words that begins with the letter u, use a (not an). This occurs when the vowel u sounds like you.

a uniform a user
a utensil a union
a university a unit
a unicorn a useful tool

We put a before words beginning with the other letters of the alphabet called consonants (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z). But some words do not follow this rule. For example, you put an (not a) before these words that begin with h. You would notice that h is not pronounced in these words.

an hour an honor
an honest person an heir

We put the before a countable noun when there is only one or when we are referring to a particular one.

the earth The baby in the cot.
the sky The radio in the room.
the sun The tree in front of the house.

We can use numbers or quantity words with countable nouns.

one table a lot of pillows
four wheels many flowers
a hundred years plenty of stamps
a million people some pizzas

Uncountable Nouns

Some nouns are called uncountable nouns or non-count nouns. They are called uncountable nouns because they are words for things we cannot count.

chocolate tea
cream heat
food milk
wind sand
snow sugar

We can put words like a piece of before uncountable nouns, and use them as countable nouns.

a bar of chocolate a jar of jam
a bottle of cream a pinch of salt
a drop of water a spoonful of sugar
a speck of dust a gust of wind
a blade of grass a shower of rain

We can use numbers and quantities with these words to show the plural form.

three bars of chocolate a few grains of rice
two bottles of cream a few limps of sugar

English Grammar Tricks - Countable & Uncountable Nouns

A furniture? Much books? Do you make mistakes like these? Learn some easy tricks to master countable and uncountable nouns for use in conversation and on exams.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Countable nouns are individual items and so can be counted.
They must have the indefinite article (a/an) for singular, or “s” for plural.

Uncountable nouns refer to substances or ideas, and so cannot be counted.
They can’t take the indefinite article or “s”

Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Countable nouns have singular and plural forms.
Uncountable nouns always take a singular form and always use singular verbs.
The articles used for countable nouns are a, an, and the.
The articles used for uncountable nouns is the.
Some quantifiers used for countable nouns are many, a few, a number of, a large number of, a majority of, several.
Some quantifiers used for uncountable nouns are much, a little, a bit, a large amount of, a large quantity of, plenty of.
Some quantifiers used for both are all, enough, some, any, a lot of.

Articles: A, An The
An introduction or overview of English articles: a, an, the, and the zero article.
Indefinite Articles: A / An
• Use with singular nouns.
• Use to identify, classify, or define a noun.
• Use to make a general reference.

A / AN: Pronunciation
• Use A before a singular noun that starts with a consonant sound.
• Use AN before a singular noun that starts with a vowel sound.

Indefinite vs Definite
A and AN are definite articles. We often use them before a singular noun the first time we mention it.
THE is the definite article. We use it before a singular noun after the first mention. THE makes a noun specific - it is known and understood by the speaker and listener.
THE: pronunciation

THE: specific from context
• Use THE even in the first mention of singular noun if the particular thing or person is known or understood by both the speaker and listener.

The ZERO article
• The zero article means that no article is used. No article is needed:

  1. before uncountable nouns (general reference)
  2. before plural nouns (general reference)

Proper Nouns
• A proper noun is the name of a particular person, place, or thing. A proper noun begins with a capital letter.
• The zero article is often used before proper nouns.

Exercises to help you practice: a, an, the, and the zero article

English Grammar & Articles A, An, The
This English lesson teaches you how to use ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’ correctly. Many English students make mistakes with these simple words (articles), so make sure you learn how to use them correctly.

Count And Non-Count Nouns
This video gives a brief introduction to count and non-count nouns. ESL learners must master this before they can properly use articles and modifiers with nouns.

Count nouns are the names of “things” that can be counted, such as apples.
Non-count nouns are the names of “things” which cannot be counted, such as water.
You need to know the difference between count and non-count nouns in order to:
• use articles (the, a, an) correctly
• use plurals correctly
• use quantity words or quantifiers (e.g. much or many) correctly.

Check a dictionary if you are not sure whether a noun is countable or uncountable.

Try the free Mathway calculator and problem solver below to practice various math topics. Try the given examples, or type in your own problem and check your answer with the step-by-step explanations.
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