Table of Contents
What are count nouns?
Count nouns are those nouns that can be counted. They have singular and plural forms.
one/a tree, 2 trees, 3 trees, etc.
one/an egg, 2 eggs, 3 eggs, etc.
one/a child, 2 children, 3 children, etc.
one/a fish, 2 fish, 3 fish, etc.
What are non-count nouns?
Non-count nouns are those nouns that cannot be counted. They have only one form and take a singular verb. They are not used with a or an.
- Types of food: bread, flour, rice, etc.
- Liquids: milk, oil, water, etc.
- Subjects of study: chemistry, geography, history, etc.
- Languages: Arabic, English, French, etc.
- Sports: football, squash, volleyball, etc.
- Diseases: diabetes, flu, malaria, etc.
- Natural phenomena: hail, rain, snow, etc.
- Certain nouns: advice, dirt, education, work, etc.
- Collective nouns: equipment, furniture, money, etc.
Count and non-count nouns can be used after phrases of quantity, such as bar, bottle, jar, etc. With non-count nouns, these phrases enable us to express the measurements of foods and other materials.
- a bag / 2 bags of flour, rice, sugar, etc.
- a bar / 2 bars of chocolate, soap, gold, etc.
- a bottle/ 2 bottles of milk, juice, oil, ink, etc.
- a bowl / 2 bowls of cereal, corn, salad, etc.
- a box / 2 boxes of fried chicken, chicken wings, candies, etc.
- a can / 2 cans of cola, beans, water, etc.
- a carton / 2 cartons of milk, ice cream, juice, etc.
- a cup / 2 cups of tea, coffee, cappuccino, etc.
- a drop / 2 drops of water, blood, oil, etc.
- a glass / 2 glasses of juice, water, lemonade, etc.
- a jar / 2 jars of jam, clay, honey, etc.
- a packet / 2 packets of french fries, potato chips, etc.
- a roll / 2 rolls of kitchen paper, toilet paper, tape, etc.
- a slice / 3 slices of bread, pizza, meat, cheese, etc.
Using articles (a, an, the) with count and non-count nouns:
The indefinite articles a / an can be used with singular count nouns but never with non-count nouns.
Examples: a boy, an elephant
The definite article the can be used with both singular and plural count nouns and with noncount nouns.
Examples: the laptop, the doctors, the education
(For more details about the use of definite and indefinite articles with nouns click here.)
⇔ Take a quiz on articles.
Using quantifiers with count and non-count nouns:
Quantifiers are words that go before nouns to show the quantity. Some quantifiers can be used before count nouns only, some of them can be used with non-count nouns only, and a third group of quantifiers can be used with both.
Here is a list of the most common quantifiers and how they are used with count and non-count nouns.
Quantifiers used with count nouns only:
- many: many people, many ideas, many stories
- few: few apples, few friends, few dollars
- a few: a few devices, a few gusts, a few bottles
Difference between few and a few:
Few means “not many, almost none” while a few means “some, not many.”
- Few students participated in the activity. (almost none)
- A few students participated in the activity. (a small number, not many)
One, Each, and Every
We use these three expressions of quantity (one, each, and every) with singular count nouns only. We never use them with non-count nouns.
We use singular verbs with these three quantifiers.
They are used in 2 ways:
1. followed immediately by a singular noun
- One candidate was able to pass the test.
- Each student was given a different question.
- Every child has a chair and desk.
2. followed by (one) of the + specific plural noun
- One of the candidates was able to pass the test.
- Each of the students was given a different question.
- Each one of the students was given a different question.
- Every one of the children has a chair and desk.
Difference between each and every:
Each is used when we think of one individual thing/person at a time.
- Each student was given a different question. = Student 1 was given a question. Student 2 was given a question. Etc.
Every is used when we mean all the individuals of the group.
- Every child has a chair and a desk. = All of the children have desks and chairs.
Every one (two words) is part of the expression of quantity every one of the + plural noun
Everyone (one word) is an indefinite pronoun and means the same as everybody.
Quantifiers used with non-count nouns only:
much help, much courage, much milk
little water, little time, little paper
- a little:
a little coffee, a little juice, a little bread
Difference between little and a little:
Little means “not much, almost none” while a little means “some, not much.”
- There’s little sugar in the container. (almost none)
- There’s a little sugar in the container. (some but not much
Quantifiers used with both count and non-count nouns:
some boxes (count) — some advice (non-count)
any trees (count) — any information (non-count)
- a lot of/lots of:
a lot of malls (count) — a lot of fog (non-count)
no insects (count) — no courage (non-count)
Difference between some and any:
Some is used in affirmative sentences, while any is used in questions and negative sentences.
- She prepared some cup cakes for the kids.
- Do you have any cup cakes left?
- I don’t have any cup cakes left.
Note: Some can also be used in questions when the speaker believes the answer would be positive, particularly in offers and requests.
- Would you like some coffee?
- Shall I bring you some juice from the canteen?
⇔ Take a quiz on quantifiers.
Plural forms of count nouns
Count nouns have singular and plural forms.
To make the plural form of nouns, we follow different rules.
If in doubt about the spelling, the learner should consult the dictionary.
1. The general rule is to add -s to the noun.
- goal – goals
- chair – chairs
- hand – hands
2. Add -es to nouns that end in –sh, –ch, –s, –z, and –x.
- brush – brushes
- watch – watches
- bus – buses
- buzz – buzzes
- box – boxes
3. Add –ies to nouns that end in a consonant + –y.
- berry – berries
- baby – babies
- lobby – lobbies
- opportunity – opportunities
4. The following nouns have irregular plurals (without –s):
- man – men
- woman – women
- child – children
- ox – oxen
- foot – feet
- tooth – teeth
- goose – geese
- mouse – mice
- louse – lice
5. Add –es to make plural of nouns that end in –o.
- potato – potatoes
- tomato – tomatoes
- echo – echoes
- embargo – embargoes
- hero – heroes
6. Some nouns end in –o but their plurals simply end in –s.
- auto – autos
- ghetto – ghettos
- kangaroo – kangaroos
- kilo – kilos
- memo – memos
- photo – photos
- piano – pianos
- radio – radios
- solo – solos
- studio – studios
- tattoo – tattoos
- video – videos
- zoo – zoos
7. The following nouns end in –o. They have 2 plural forms with –es or –s. The –es form is more popular.
- mosquito – mosquitoes & mosquitos
- tornado – tornadoes & tornados
- volcano – volcanoes & volcanos
- zero – zeroes & zeros
8. To form plurals of nouns ending in –f or –fe, we change the –f or –fe to –ves.
- calf – calves
- half – halves
- life – lives
- self – selves
- shelf – shelves
- scarf – scarves & scarfs
- wolf – wolves
- loaf → loaves
- shelf → shelves
- thief → thieves
- wife → wives
- leaf – leaves
9. The following nouns end in –f but we form the plural by simply adding an –s.
- belief – beliefs
- chief – chiefs
- cliff – cliffs
- roof – roofs
10. Some nouns have the same form in the singular and plural.
- fish – fish
- dear – dear
- means – means
- offspring – offspring
- series – series
- sheep – sheep
- shrimp – shrimp & shrimps
- species – species
11. Some nouns that English borrowed from other languages have foreign plural forms.
- criterion – criteria
- phenomenon – phenomena
- analysis – analyses
- crisis – crises
- hypothesis – hypotheses
- parenthesis – parentheses
- thesis – theses
- bacterium – bacteria
- curriculum – curricula
- datum – data
- medium – media