Uncountable Nouns in English grammar | DailyStep English

Uncountable Nouns in English grammar

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This is Jane Lawson's Audio Blog #108 at DailyStep English

English teacher Jane LawsonHello, I'm Jane at DailyStep English and welcome to my Audio Blog!

This week I'll explain how to use UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS  - a common cause of mistakes in English, even for advanced learners! There are also some free audio descriptions of all the topics in next week's DailyStep audio lessons. If you are new to DailyStep English, please register for 5 free UK/USA audio lessons and to be on my mailing list.

This is Audio Word Study #21 from Jane Lawson at DailyStep.com.


Today I’m going to teach you about uncountable nouns. Uncountable nouns are often materials, substances or concepts that cannot be divided into separate elements. They cannot be counted as individual things. For example, we can’t count water. We can count glasses of water, or bottles of water. But water itself cannot be counted.


Some examples of uncountable nouns are:

   Bread, meat, water, oil, sugar, rice

   Electricity, gas, energy, money, rain, weather

   Joy, peace, love, music, art, literature

   Information, research, advice, news, help

   Air, water, fire, metal, wood, light


Here are some rules about uncountable nouns:


1. Uncountable nouns are singular, because we cannot count more than one of them.



This music sounds beautiful. (note: we cannot say ‘These musics sound beautiful’.)

That information is very important. (note: we cannot say ‘Those informations are very important’.)..


2. Uncountable nouns do not take the indefinite article (a /an). It is incorrect to say ‘a rice’ or ‘a sand’, but we can use countable noun + of + uncountable noun.



a grain of rice, a litre of oil, a piece of bread

a volt of electricity, a drop of rain, a bag of money

a piece of music, a piece of art, a sense of peace

an item of news, a bit of advice, a piece of research

a litre of water, a ray of light, a type of metal.


3. If we are talking about uncountable nouns in their general sense, without being specific, we do not use the definite article (the).



I love music. (note: this means ‘I love all music’ or ‘I love music in general’.)

Electricity can be dangerous. (note: this means ‘All electricity can be dangerous’, or ‘In general, electricity can be dangerous’.)

Bread is often made from wheat. (note: this means ‘In general, bread is often made from wheat’. In this sentence, there are 2 uncountable nouns – bread and wheat.)


5. If we are talking about uncountable nouns in their specific sense, we can also use possessive adjectives (my, your, his, her, its, our, their), or a demonstrative adjective (this, that).



My advice is to study English every day.

This wine is over 20 years old! (note: it is incorrect to say ‘Wine is over 20 years old’, because this would mean that all wine in the world is over 20 years old!)

Your tea is cold – shall I heat it up?.


6. We use some and any with uncountable nouns. We use any with questions and negative sentences. We use some with positive sentences.


Do you have any bread? (note: ‘Have you got…?’ and ‘Do you have…?’ mean the same thing.)

No, I haven’t got any bread. (note: we do not say ‘ I haven’t got some bread’.)


Is there any water in that bottle?

Yes, there is some water..


5. We use much, not many, with uncountable nouns. We usually use much for questions and negatives, and we use a lot of or a great deal of for positives.



Have you got much luggage in your car? (note: we do not say ‘Have you got many luggage?’ However, it is correct to say ‘Have you got many bags?’, because we can count bags. Bags are countable.)

No, I have not got much luggage.


How much milk is there in the fridge? (note: we do not say ‘How many milk is there in the fridge?’)

There is a lot of milk in the fridge. There are four bottles of milk! (note: we can also say ‘There is a great deal of milk in the fridge. This is more formal than ‘a lot of milk’.).


6. We use a little and little with uncountable nouns.



little = not much

A little = some



There is little information about it in that book. (note: this means ‘There is not much information about it in that book.’)

I added a little sugar to my coffee. (note: this means ‘I added some sugar to my coffee.’).

Some nouns have a both a countable meaning and an uncountable meaning! I will cover these in a future audio blog.

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Well, that is it for today! I’ll be in touch again soon. Thank you for your many requests about subjects you would like me to cover in my blogs. I will cover as many of them as I can!


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