Countable and non-countable nouns
- Countable nouns (sometimes called unit nouns) are, as you might guess, nouns that we can count.
- Non-countable nouns (sometimes called mass nouns) are nouns that we can't count.
1 glass of water
2 glasses of water
3 glasses of water
1 drop of water
2 drops of water
3 drops of water
Countable, non-countable, singular and plural
Now, let's think back to the last section where we talked about singular and plural nouns. Can we make any sort of relationship between countable/non-countable and singular/plural nouns?
If we think about it, being able to count a noun must mean that we can have more than one of it (2 apples, 3 chairs). This means that countable nouns can be either singular or plural. But if we can't count something, this means that we can't make it plural. As we've seen, it makes no sense to add "s" to water and say "2 waters". So non-countable nouns can't be made plural. And that's why in the last section we said that most nouns can be made plural, not all nouns.
Nouns which are both countable and non-countable
Some nouns can be both countable and non-countable, depending on how we're using them. Have a look at these sentences:
I go to work every day.
The works of Van Gogh are astonishing.
I like sandwiches with cheese and lettuce.
Many different cheeses are made in the UK.