Count and Non-Count Nouns

Count

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 in which they fit, and their singular and plural forms.


Count Nouns

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

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 whole 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 in which they fit.


Non-Count Nouns

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

 

 


 

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

Count
Non-Count
Items in Category
Head 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

 

 


 

Examples

Some nouns, like the word 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 and non-count nouns:


Used as a Count Noun Used as a Non-Count Noun
beauty Miss Gallaudet is a beauty. Other students envied her beauty.
fire Will you please light a fire in the fireplace? John Doe's home was destroyed by fire.
death They had a death in the family. Death is a tragic thing.
gossip Susan is a gossip. Gossip can destroy people's reputations.
foods Supermarkets have aisles for different foods. The animals at the zoo wanted food.

 

The Much and Many Rule:

  • Many is used with count nouns
  • Much is used with non-count nouns
 Count Nouns  Non-Count Nouns
How many papers do you have to write? How much homework did you have last night?
There were too many books required for that class. I had to read so much literature for my English class.

 


 

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.

 


Developed by Ellen Beck, Rachel Mingo and
Nelson Treece for English Works! 1997.

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