Learning Materials Lessons

Grammar lesson of the month: commonly confused non-count nouns

February 1, 2013

Nouns! They can be so simple: representations of a person, place, thing, or idea. But they can also be so confusing! Why do we say that we have two dogs, but not two sugars? Why not two breads, but two pizzas? Today we are looking at an overview of Count and Non-Count Nouns and then paying close attention to English words that seem to naturally fall into one of these two categories . . . but belong in the other.

Count Nouns

It seems so simple: Count Nouns are nouns that you can count easily.

apples
bananas
walnuts
chairs
desks
computers
cars
roads
clouds

. . . the list goes on and on!

 

Non-Count Nouns

Non-Count Nouns, on the other hand, cannot be counted so easily. Why? Because most Non-Count Nouns refer to things that are not easily countable. Most often, these are things you cannot touch (we say they are “abstract”), like:

beauty
happiness
success
experience
anger
confusion
music
honesty
 

Other Non-Count Nouns can be touched, but can’t be counted so easily, like:

butter 
bread
water
sand
coffee
sugar

We can obviously measure each of these things (“I have one cup of butter and two cups of coffee”) but can we count them? Not so easily! Unless you have hours in the day to count grains of sand . . . 🙂

 

Commonly Confused Non-Count Nouns

This is all seems pretty simple so far, right? Unfortunately, there are some words in the English language that are not so easily categorized. These words seem to belong in the Count Nouns category, but are actually Non-Count Nouns. Learning them will greatly improve your English skills.

accommodation
advice
baggage
behavior
bread
chaos
clothing
dirt
equipment
food
fruit
furniture
garbage
grammar
homework
information
jewelry
knowledge
luggage
mail
money
news
pasta
progress
research
scenery
trash
travel
vocabulary
weather
work

Each of these words is Non-Count, and cannot have an “s” added to the end. For example, if you have five suitcases, then you have a lot of luggage. You have a lot of homework (not “homeworks). And you receive a lot of mail, not “mails.”

As you can see, to say that you have more than one of the listed Non-Count words, you must add “a lot of.” To say that you have an average amount, you use the word “some.” To say that you do not have a lot of the word, you say “little.”

  • The neighbors have a lot of trash.
  • I have done some research in my job.
  • I have had little work lately.

Best of luck learning these words! Such a simple thing like learning this list and correctly using these words will truly improve your English skills.

-CISL

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