Uncountable English Nouns | Fix Common Grammar Mistakes & Errors

Lesson Overview

There are two types of nouns – countable and uncountable. Knowing the difference between them and how you can use these types of nouns is really important! It affects how you use:
articles (a/an/the)
– much/many
– a little/a few

Learning and understanding how countable and uncountable nouns are used differently in English will certainly improve your grammar!

Video Transcript
Section 1
Hello I’m Emma from mmmEnglish!

In this lesson we’re focusing on English nouns. Why? Because so many of the mistakes you’re making in English are related to the way that you use nouns.

Starting from the top, there are two types of English noun, countable and uncountable English nouns.

Now, you might be thinking “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah… Whatever it doesn’t really matter!” But actually, it does matter. It really really does, for a whole lot of reasons! Like, how to use articles correctly.

How to use ‘much’ and ‘many’, ‘so’ and ‘such’, ‘some’ and ‘any’ or ‘a little’ and ‘a few’. These words all depend on the type of noun and learning and understanding more about countable and uncountable nouns and how they’re used differently will dramatically improve your English grammar!

I guarantee you that some of the mistakes that you’re making in English are because you are treating an uncountable noun like a countable noun or a countable noun like an uncountable noun!

Now, I’ve made you a ‘cheat sheet’ to help you understand these rules and I’m going to tell you how to download it at the end of this lesson.

In this video, we’re focusing on uncountable nouns but you can check out another video on countable nouns right there.

Okay! So, the kitchen is a great place to start talking about countable and uncountable nouns. It’s been a while since mmmEnglish has been in the kitchen, so I’m very excited to be back here!

The easiest way to remember uncountable nouns is to think about nouns that are difficult to count. Things like liquids, water or wine. Gases, the air, or powders like flour. Or things like electricity, money or abstract nouns like happiness, motivation and luck.

Now, all of these nouns, if you think about it, are difficult to count. Uncountable nouns have only one form. They can’t be plural. You can’t use ‘a‘ or ‘an’ with uncountable nouns because they can’t be counted.

You can’t use numbers with them at all. We can’t say “I need a milk” or “give me 3 monies”. But you can use some with uncountable nouns and that just means ‘an amount’, but not a specific amount.

  • Can you get some rice from the supermarket for me?

We can also use uncountable nouns without ‘some’.

  • Can you get rice from the supermarket for me?

That’s perfectly okay as well!

For example, to make pancakes I need to make, I need to have some flour. I need to have some sugar, some water and maybe even some maple syrup. All of these nouns are uncountable but we do need a way to quantify these nouns, especially when you’re cooking in the kitchen. We need to know how much to use!

And that’s easy to do when you’re talking about countable nouns, like ‘a lemon’ or ‘an apple’, but with countable nouns you need another countable noun to help you quantify your uncountable noun.

A packet of rice, a cup of oil, a can of coconut milk, 2 litres of water, for example.

And all of a sudden, all of these things can become countable! Notice how I was using an article with all of those nouns?

Now, this is all great in the kitchen but what about outside of the kitchen, with nouns like information or happiness or money, luggage, advice!

It’s the same idea! A piece of information, a moment of happiness, a bit of luck or a bit of money, two pieces of luggage or I’ve got three pieces of advice for you!

Let’s recap on uncountable nouns for a moment.

  • They have only one form.
  • They’re never plural.
  • You can’t use articles like ‘a’ or ‘an’ with them and can’t use numbers.
  • You can’t say ‘an information’ or ‘two luggages’ or ‘three advices’.

Okay? Fabulous!

Don’t forget that you can download this worksheet to help you practise using uncountable nouns correctly.

Now, there are some uncountable nouns that you’ll see being used as plural nouns.

Eeek! But before you freak out, these exceptions are related to the context and just for a moment this is going to get a little bit confusing. But be patient, stay calm! I’m going to help you to understand right now!

Let’s use coffee as an example. I’ve got some instant coffee here, some coffee beans and of course, a delicious cup of coffee. Now, the liquid is uncountable and so is the powder that’s in instant coffee. Now, you can count the beans but that’s less common. So, we need some other countable nouns to tell us some more information about the noun.

A jar, a packet or a kilogram a cup. But you might hear someone say:

  • I’ll have a coffee with two sugars please.

Huh? Coffee and sugar are both uncountable! How can that be?

Well simply, the context will tell us that it means a cup of coffee and two teaspoons of sugar. The same if someone said:

  • We’ll take three waters.

It means three bottles of water or three glasses of water.

So, how do you know if a noun is countable or uncountable? It’s easy!

In the dictionary when you look up this word, you’ll see [U] or a [C] next to that noun. It will tell you if it’s countable or uncountable and instantly, you’ll know how you can use this noun, especially once you download the worksheet that’s going to help you.

It’s really important because there’s lots of different words that you can use in English with uncountable nouns that you can’t use with countable nouns.

  • There’s a little water in my cup.
  • There’s a few waters in my cup.
  • There’s too much information.
  • There’s too many informations.

So, it’s really important that you’re using the correct English word with these nouns.

Now, before I finish I want to tell you some of the biggest mistakes that I see with uncountable nouns in English.

  • advice
  • knowledge
  • information
  • news
  • luggage
  • equipment
  • furniture

These are all uncountable nouns. They have only one form.

So that’s it for this lesson! I hope that you’re feeling a little more confident with uncountable nouns now. Remember that you can watch the countable nouns lesson, right here!

Make sure that you subscribe to my channel, so that you never miss a lesson!

There’s a couple more lessons in this playlist that you might enjoy too! That’s it for now but I will see you again very soon! Bye!


Links mentioned in the video

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