Uncountable nouns in English

(Explanation of English nouns that cannot be counted)

Table of contents – uncountable nouns

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of uncountable nouns
  2. Plural of uncountable nouns
  3. Further explanations and exercises

How are uncountable nouns used in English?

Besides the countable nouns, there are also uncountable nouns in English grammar. This type of noun does not have a plural form; therefore, neither indefinite articles (a, an) nor numbers (‘one, two, ten’, etc.) can stand before it. Compare the following usage:

  • Some examples of uncountable nouns in English:
    • shopping
    • weather
    • water
    • money
    • butter
    • advice
    • bread
    • information
    • help
    • milk
    • intelligence
  • In sentences, they may appear in the following ways where they are often used in combination with words like ‘any, some’ (detailed usage under ‘some & any’) or ‘much, little’ etc.:
    • “Can I have some water, please?”
    • “For pancakes, you need milk, butter, salt, and three eggs.”
    • “Unfortunately, the policeman couldn’t give me any information about the accident.”
      • Careful: In some other languages, the word ‘information’ may indeed occur in a plural form with ‘s’.
    • “Patricia hasn’t got much money.”
  • Notice: Accordingly, the following combinations would not be possible:
    • money → three moneys
    • information → an information

How can uncountable nouns be used in the plural?

As mentioned above, uncountable nouns do not have a plural form. However, some of them can be preceded by particular words or expressions (that can be counted) to make the noun appear countable. Such words can be, for example, countable nouns or quantifiers. In doing so, it is possible to express a specific number. Compare the following potential uses:

  • Examples of uncountable nouns that are combined with countable quantities or units of quantity:
    • butter → three packets of butter
    • bread → one loaf of bread
    • milk → two litres of milk
  • There are some typical combinations of uncountable nouns and quantifiers that are very common. Some examples are:
    • a slice/loaf of bread
    • a bit of information
    • a word of advice
    • a cup of coffee
    • a mug/pot of tea

Further explanations referring to ‘Uncountable nouns’

The following additional explanations relate to the topic ‘Uncountable nouns in English’ and could be interesting too: