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Areas of Study

Count Nouns

Count nouns refer to people, places, or things that can be counted. They can be made plural, usually by adding -s or -es at the end.

Here is a chart of some count nouns, the categories into which they fit, and their singular and plural forms:

Persons Places Things
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
boy teacher janitor assistant president student athlete secretary duchess boys teachers janitors assistants presidents students athletes secretaries duchesses shop restaurant field area office station laboratory post office zoo shops restaurants fields areas offices stations laboratories post offices zoos watch hose lawn mower computer disk table knife penny handout staple watches hoses lawn mowers computer disks tables knives pennies handouts >staples

Non-Count Nouns

Non-count nouns are used to describe a quality, action, thing, or substance that can be poured or measured. They also refer to a whole category made up of different varieties or a group of things that is made up of many individual parts. They do not have a plural form.

Here are some examples of non-count nouns and the categories into which they fit:

Poured / Measured Qualities Actions
shampoo milk sugar paint friendliness honesty integrity reliability signing / to sign standing / to stand running / to run driving / to drive

Distinguishing between count and non-count

Here is a chart of individual items within a category (the count nouns), and the name of the category (the non-count nouns).

Items in Category Name of Category
strawberries bananas peaches apples fruit
televisions posters tables chairs stuff
secretaries assistants computer aides librarians staff
pants shirts shorts socks clothing
automobiles trains planes bicycles transportation
history professors sociology teachers art instructors faculty

The ‘Much and Many rule’

  • “Many” is used with count nouns
  • “Much” is used with non-count nouns

Complicated cases

Some nouns, like “time,” can be used as either a count noun or a non-count noun.

How much time did it take for you to drive to school?

This is a non-count noun because it refers to a category that contains smaller items (think of it as a “group” of minutes).

How many times did you take the test before you passed?

This is a count noun, because you can count exactly how many separate times you took the test.

Here are some other nouns that can be used as both count nouns or non-count nouns:

  • beauty
  • fire
  • death
  • gossip
  • food

Resources

If you’re still not sure how to identify non-count nouns and count nouns, you can look them up in the dictionary.

Longman’s Dictionary

  • n for countable
  • n[U] for uncountable
  • n[C] for both countable and uncountable.

Newbury House English Learner’s Dictionary

  • N COUNT for countable nouns
  • N UNCOUNT for uncountable nouns.

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