Uncountable Nouns

Rules and Examples

Nouns are usually countable or uncountable.

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three apples
Countable nouns can be counted and have singular and plural forms.
  • 1 apple/3 apples

  • 1 foot/12 feet

  • a mouse/several mice

Uncountable Nouns:

Uncountable nouns (also called noncount nouns and mass nouns) are nouns that:
  • cannot be counted

  • cannot be made plural

  • are not usually used with the articles "a" or "an"

  • cannot be used alone with numbers

We cannot "count" uncountable nouns by themselves.

For example, we cannot count sugar by itself.


We can count teaspoons of sugar, cubes of sugar and cups of sugar.

cubes of sugar

Many uncountable nouns refer to substances such as butter and water.

Other uncountable nouns refer to emotions and ideas such as knowledge and happiness.

Here are some common uncountable nouns:

substances emotions/ideas
sugar love
milk happiness
butter power
water patience
electricity advice
money grammar
news education
coffee sadness
work time
sand hate
weather sorrow
furniture forgiveness
food experience
homework peace
flour anger

Rules for using uncountable nouns

1. Uncountable nouns have only one form

Uncountable nouns act like a singular noun.


Uncountable noun: Advice

  • I need advices.
  • I need advice.

  • I need some advice.

Uncountable noun: Furniturefurniture

  • The room is full of furnitures.
  • The room is full of furniture.

  • The room has a lot of furniture.

Uncountable noun:

  • We have had cold weathers this week.
  • We have had a lot of cold weather this week.

  • We haven’t had much warm weather this week.

Uncountable noun:
  • I put butters on my pancakes.
  • I put butter on my pancakes.

  • I put a slice of butter on my pancakes.

2. Uncountable nouns do not immediately follow A or AN

  • I eat a sugar on my cereal.
  • I eat sugar on my cereal.

  • I eat some sugar on my cereal.

  • I eat a spoonful of sugar on my cereal.

  • You must have an experience to apply for the job.
  • You must have experience to apply for the job.

  • You must have a little experience to apply for the job.

  • I have a sand in my shoe.
  • I have sand in my shoe.

  • I have a bunch of sand in my shoe.

3. You can modify uncountable nouns with quantity words and phrases

Quantity words and phrases make uncountable nouns appear countable.

Water cannot be counted. We do not know the amount of water.

But, we CAN count:
  • one cup of water
  • a little bit of water
  • some water
  • a drop of water
drop of water

These are all amounts of water that can be counted.

Here are some common quantity words and phrases to use with uncountable nouns:
  • some
  • any
  • a little
  • much
  • a lot of/lots of
  • a little bit of
  • enough
  • plenty of
  • no

  • Step outside for some fresh air.

  • Did you bring any luggage to the hotel?

  • Add a little flour to the dough.

  • I don't hear much noise when the windows are shut.storm

  • I need a lot of money for my trip.

  • Jim heard lots of thunder last night.

  • A little bit of kindness goes a long way.

  • The office does not have enough work for another employee.

  • Teachers need plenty of patience to work with children.

  • I have no coffee for my guests.

4. You can modify uncountable nouns by using a word that specifies a container or a form
measuring spoons

  • handful/handfuls
  • bottle/bottles
  • jar/jars
  • packet/packets
  • cup/cups
  • bowl/bowls
  • piece/pieces
  • bar/bars
  • slab/slabs
  • cube/cubes
  • game/games
  • grain/grains
  • barrel/barrels

  • handful of grass

  • bottle of water

  • jar of coffee

  • cups of tea

  • bowls of cheese

  • piece of equipment
    sugar, coffee, and tea
  • bars of gold and silver
  • slab of beef

  • cubes of sugar

  • game of tennis

  • grains of sand

  • barrels of wine

The container or form words can follow adjectives, numbers or the articles a/an/the.

  • a handful of grass

    cup of tea
  • the two bottles of water

  • large jars of coffee

  • the packet of salt

  • a warm cup of tea

  • half a bowl of cheese

  • a piece of equipment

  • twenty bars of gold or silver

  • a huge slab of beef

  • some cubes of sugar

  • a game of tennis

  • many grains of sand

  • three barrels of wine

5. Some nouns can be countable or uncountable depending on their meaning and how they are used in a sentence

For example, let's look at the word "glass."

singular: glass

plural: glasses

A) I drank a big glass of juice.

B) She drank two glasses.

C) He cannot see and will have to buy glasses.

D) The ball broke glass in the window.

In sentences A and B, glass is a countable noun. We are talking about a drinking glass.

glass of juice

In sentence C, glasses is a countable noun. We are talking about a pair of spectacles or eye glasses.


In sentence D, glass is an uncountable noun. We are talking about glass as a material. The window is made of glass. The window can be counted, but this type of glass cannot be counted.

broken window

Let's look at another example.

singular: language

plural: languages

A) I only speak one language.

B) She speaks three languages.

C) Please don't use bad language.

In sentence A, language is a singular countable noun.

In sentence B, languages is a plural countable noun.

In sentence C, language is an uncountable noun.

A few other words that can be countable or uncountable are:
  • paper

  • hope

  • business

  • death

  • time

  • marriage

  • power

  • work

  • property

  • hair
These were the rules of uncountable nouns. Now that you know them, it is time to practice: Illustrated Worksheet on Countable and Uncountable Nouns.

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