Uncountable Nouns

Uncountable Nouns in English

When did you first learn to count? Age 3? So what did you count? I counted my age (3 years), my fingers (1, 2, 3, … 10), cookies, toys, and so on. I really liked to count. So much so that I went on to study math at university. But let’s get back to English.

All of these things that I was counting are countable nouns: years, fingers, cookies, toys,… Quite simply, things that can be counted and given a number. I am 3 years old. I have 10 fingers. I want 4 cookies. I have 1,289 toys. Ok, the last one might be an exaggeration.

But there are some things that can’t be counted, and we call them, you guessed it, uncountable nouns (they are also sometimes called mass nouns, but that’s not as easy to remember).

For example, air.   We can’t count how much air there is with just numbers. We can measure it by saying 1 cubic meter of air, but not just by saying 5 airs. Another example is music. We can’t count how much music there is with just a number.  There is no such thing as 5 musics.

Uncountable Nouns That You Need To Know:

Some uncountable nouns are rarely used or rarely said incorrectly. However, the following are often said incorrectly by Germans. Why? One reason is that they aren’t uncountable in German.

Luggage – How much luggage am I allowed to travel with?

Information – He gave me a lot of good information about places to eat in Munich.

Advice – I never listen to my father’s advice.

Furniture – I don’t have a lot of furniture in my apartment.

Homework – My teacher assigned me too much homework tonight.

Mail – I received a lot of mail while I was on vacation.

Research – He does a lot of research before traveling to a new place.

Uncountable Nouns Made Countable:

Uncountable nouns can be converted into a countable variety if you feel the need to count them (And sometimes that is necessary).

We can’t count “luggage”, but we can count “pieces of luggage”. “I traveled back from the United States with 5 pieces of luggage. I had done a lot of shopping at the outlet malls there”.

Examples:

I am able to take two pieces of luggage on the plane without paying an extra fee.

The best piece of information he gave me was to eat at that restaurant.

The most important piece of advice my father gave me was to never give up.

My three newest pieces of furniture were quite expensive.

I received 5 new homework assignments from my teacher today.

How many pieces of mail were for my brother, and how many were for me?


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