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Understanding Noncount Nouns.

Understanding Noncount Nouns.

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge,
a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity it is a pre-requisite.
Barack Obama,
Address to Joint Session of Congress, Feb. 24, 2009

Today we are going to talk about the difference between count and noncount nouns.

Most nouns in English can be counted. Think of the noun shirt, as in, I bought a shirt. If you
have more than one shirt, you just add s to make it plural.

"I bought 10 shirts."

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Understanding Noncount Nouns.

But a shirt is part of a larger category: clothing. You can say I bought three shirts but you
cannot say, I bought three clothings. Clothing is a noncount noun. You cannot use a, an, or
a number before a noncount noun.

Grammatically, a noncount noun is always singular, even if it refers to multiple items like
furniture, luggage, or equipment.

A count noun in your native language might be a noncount noun in English. For example, the
Spanish translation for homework (tarea) is a count noun. But homework is a noncount noun
in English. It would sound strange to say, I had three homeworks. You could say, I had a lot
of homework.

You can also could say, I had three homework assignments. In this example, homework is
used as an adjective. It describes assignment. You can count assignments, but you cannot
count homework.

There is no perfect rule to determine if a noun is count or noncount. Fortunately, most


noncount nouns fall into a few categories.

Groups of similar things

Noncount nouns often refer to groups of similar objects. Furniture, for example, is a noncount
noun. Furniture is a collection of similar countable items like chairs, sofas, tables, shelves, beds
and so on.

Luggage is also a noncount noun. You can count bags, packages, and backpacks, but you
cannot count luggage. Other noncount nouns that refer to groups of similar things include
equipment, food, garbage, mail, money and vocabulary.

Abstractions

Abstract words are noncount. These are words that refer to ideas or qualities instead of
physical objects or events. Abstractions are usually things that you cannot see: They only exist
in the mind. For example: love, hate, information, news, peace, music and art. There are tens
of thousands of abstract words.

Other types of noncount nouns

It is logical that particles -- things that come in very small pieces -- are noncount nouns. It
would be difficult to count rice, corn, salt, sugar and dust.

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Understanding Noncount Nouns.

The names of academic fields of study are noncount. Even though physics, economics, and
mathematics all end with an s, they are singular noncount nouns. For example, Physics is
difficult.

Words related to nature and weather are often noncount, such as rain, wind, snow, lightning,
fire and air.

Words with count and noncount meaning

A few words can be used as count and noncount nouns. But the meaning changes a little bit.
Lets look at the word glass. As a noncount noun, glass refers to the clear material used to
make windows. For example, The lamp was made of glass.

As a count noun, glass refers to a drinking container made of glass, as in Could you bring me
a glass of water?

The plural glasses has two meanings. It could refer to more than one drinking container.
Please wash the glasses.

Glasses could also refer to spectacles, a pair of lenses used to correct vision. I have been
wearing glasses since I was a teenager.

Coffee, along with other drinks, has a count and noncount meaning. Coffee is grown in
Colombia refers to coffee as an agricultural product. Ill have a coffee refers to a single cup
of coffee.

Making Noncount Nouns into Count Nouns

There are a few very important words that make it possible to count noncount nouns. Many
food words are noncount nouns. But if you are cooking, you need to measure specific amounts
of food.

A recipe for cookies might call for 2 cups of sugar, a half-pound of butter, and 1 teaspoon of
vanilla." Pound, cup and teaspoon are examples of measure words that you can use to make
noncount nouns countable.

One of the most useful of these measure words is piece. You cannot count information but
you can count a piece of information. Piece is a very useful word because it can be used with
both count and noncount nouns. For example, you can have two pieces of pie or three pieces
of information. Listen to this song by Paul Young.

Every time you go away


You take a piece of me with you.

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Understanding Noncount Nouns.

Some of these measure words have poetic qualities to them, such as: a grain of sand, a speck
of dust, a bolt of lightning, a flake of snow, and a breath of air.

Common mistakes

Lets look at some common mistakes with noncount nouns.

Traffic might seem like a count noun. After all, it refers to a lot of cars. But traffic is a noncount
noun in English. Vocabulary, hardware, information, music, and advice are noncount nouns
that English learners often confuse for count nouns.

And let us not forget the most important noncount noun of all: grammar. You cannot count
grammar. But you can count grammar rules.

I'm Jill Robbins.

I'm Rick Hindman.

Come on come on come on come on and


Take it!
Take another little piece of heart now baby
Break it!
Break another little piece of my heart I know you will
Have a ...
Have another little piece of my heart now baby

Adam Brock wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Jill Robbins and Kathleen Struck were
the editors.

You can take the audio (mp3) from my Personal Page, or the next url:

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/everyday-grammar-understanding-noncount-
nouns/3193621.html

M.C. Enrique Ruiz Daz.


Con ttulo y cdula profesional 5632071 en la Maestra en Ciencias de la Computacin.
Egresado del Instituto Tecnolgico de Orizaba. Veracruz, Mxico.

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Understanding Noncount Nouns.

Discover The VOA- ERD Collection for Your English.

Patosos; it is expressed with respect, of course.

Visit my Personal Page. Get ahead.


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Understanding Noncount Nouns.

Know the Project: Books of English, from English 1 to 5, for all the
CBTIS of the United Mexican States.

The Students can do the organization as they like it; but


absolutely, the Responses are written by hand, and the Works are
Presented by Groups with a Maximum of 5 persons.

I formulated a project for the CBTIS (Technological Industrial and of Services Center of
Bachelor Degree) 107 of Tuxtepec, Oax., Mxico consisting in giving to the Library of this
Institution with five volumes of English language, of my authorship. A book for each semester,
from the first English book to fifth English book (according to the plan of studies in this regard
of the CBTIS). At no cost to the Institution, because this is a donation (in the staff, I solve my
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CBTIS).
One of the major advantages of this project is to solve the need of the student of
spending in books of English language because the books will be at your complete disposal into
the student community in the Library of the institution.
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Well, as a last note, I must say that these books will have the format of 'workbook'.
This, as an intelligent work with foundations and then their respective exercises to resolve, into
a concurrent process.
M.C. Enrique Ruiz Daz.
Con ttulo y cdula profesional 5632071 en la Maestra en Ciencias de la Computacin.
Egresado del Instituto Tecnolgico de Orizaba. Veracruz, Mxico.

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Understanding Noncount Nouns.

Links, for Your Preparation.

I am responsible for my own well-being, my own happiness. The choices and


decisions I make regarding my life directly influence the quality of my days. -
Kathleen Andrus

Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before
they were done. - Louis D. Brandeis

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that
something inside them was superior to circumstances. - Bruce Barton

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