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English Grammar Reference: Countable and Uncountable Nouns

A countable noun has a plural form. For example we say: 1 dog and 2 dogs. The singular form and the plural form are different and for this reason dog is a countable noun, like pen, car, etc.

Note that most irregular nouns are countable. For example 1 child, 2 children. There is no "s" in the plural but the singular form and the plural form are different so it is a countable noun.

Other examples of irregular countable nouns:

man - men, woman - women, person - people.

An uncountable noun has no plural form. It is always singular. For example money is always singular, we can't say moneys.

Examples of uncountable nouns:

money, milk, petrol, coffee, tea, water, traffic, furniture, bread, traffic.

There are a number of differences between countable and uncountable nouns:

 

Negative

Question

Positive

Countable noun

There aren't many dogs.
I don't have many books.

Are there many dogs?
Do you have many books?

There are a lot of dogs.
I have a lot of books.

Uncountable noun

He doesn't have much money.
There isn't much traffic.

Does he have much money?
Is there much traffic?

He has a lot of money.
There isn't much traffic.

The difference is in the negative and in the question not in the positive sentences. Note that in positive sentences as well as as a lot of we can also say lots of, although it is more informal.

Example:

She has lots of friends.
We've got lots of time.

When we talk about small quantities for countable nouns we say a few and for uncountable nouns we say a little.

 

Small quantity

Countable noun

There are a few dogs.
I have a few books.

Uncountable noun

He has a little money.
There is a little traffic.

 

Note that if we say few or little without "a" the sense becomes more negative.

Examples

I can go out because I've got a little money.
I can't go out because I've got little money.

It's nice here there are a few interesting places to visit.
It's boring here there are few interesting places to visit.

We can use several only with countable nouns.

There are several restaurants in town.

We can use some, any, plenty of with both countable and uncountable nouns.

I have some money.
I have some friends.

Do you have any money?
Do you have any friends?

I have plenty of money.
I have plenty of friends.