Unit 6. Uncount nouns
- Uncount nouns have only one form, and take a singular verb.
- They are not used with "a", or with numbers.
- Some nouns can be both uncount nouns and count nouns.
1. English speakers think that some things cannot be counted directly. The nouns which refer to these uncountable things are called uncount nouns. Uncount nouns often refer to:
The donkey needed food and water.
Soon, they lost patience and sent me to Durban.
I was greeted with shouts of joy.
All prices include travel to and from London.
We talked for hours about freedom.
See Unit 4 for information on count nouns.
2. Uncount nouns have only one form. They do not have a plural form.
I needed help with my homework.
The children had great fun playing with the puppets.
WARNING: Some nouns which are uncount nouns in English have plurals in other languages.
We want to spend more money on roads.
Soldiers carried so much equipment that they were barely able to move.
3. Some uncount nouns end in "-s" and therefore look like plural count nouns. They usually refer to:
Mathematics is too difficult for me.
Measles is in most cases a harmless illness.
4. When an uncount noun is the subject of a verb it takes a singular verb.
Electricity is dangerous.
Intelligence develops very slowly in these children.
Food was very expensive in those days.
5. Uncount nouns are not used with "a".
They resent having to pay money to people like me.
My father started work when he was ten.
Uncount nouns are used with "the" when they refer to something that is specified or known.
I am interested in the education of young children.
She buried the money that Hilary had given her.
I liked the music, but the words were boring.
6. Uncount nouns are not used with numbers. However, you can often refer to a quantity of something which is expressed by an uncount noun by using a word like "some". See Unit 11.
Please buy some bread when you go to town.
Let me give you some advice.
Some uncount nouns that refer to food or drink can be count nouns when they refer to quantities of the food or drink.
Do you like coffee? (uncount)
We asked for two coffees. (count)
Uncount nouns are often used with expressions such as "a loaf of", "packets of" or "a piece of", to talk about a quantity or an item. "A bit of" is common in spoken English.
I bought two loaves of bread yesterday.
He gave me a very good piece of advice.
They own a bit of land near Cambridge.
7. Some nouns are uncount nouns when they refer to something in general and count nouns when they refer to particular instance of something.
Victory was now assured. (uncount)
In 1960, the party won a convincing victory. (count)