1. Uncountable Nouns: Basic Information
If a noun is uncountable:
- You can’t make it plural.
- You need a singular verb: This information is… not This information are…
- You can’t use a/an.
2. Which Nouns are Uncountable?
Many uncountable nouns are:
- Types of food and drink: rice, pasta, water, coffee.
- Collective nouns, which describe a group of objects: furniture, equipment, luggage, traffic.
- Abstract ideas: knowledge, information, advice, progress.
If you use a learner’s dictionary, it should tell you if a noun is countable or uncountable—look for a (u) or a (c) after the noun.
3. Nouns with Countable and Uncountable Forms
Can you tell the difference between:
- glass and a glass
- wood and a wood
- paper and a paper
- coffee and a coffee
The meaning of these nouns changes if they are countable or uncountable. Glass, wood and paper (the uncountable nouns) mean the materials—as in: this chair is made of wood.
- A glass is something you drink out of.
- A wood is another way to say a forest.
- A paper is another way to say a newspaper.
- A coffee means a cup of coffee.
There are many more nouns like this.
4. Uncountable Nouns which Are Always Plural
These nouns are uncountable, but they are always plural. For example:
These nouns can never be singular—you can’t have one police, one trouser, or a scissor.
5. Making Uncountable Nouns Countable
We often make uncountable nouns countable in English by using another word in front of them. For example:
- a bag of rice
- a piece of advice
- a pair of trousers
- a piece of paper
In this way, it’s easy to use an uncountable noun like a countable one.