Common uncountables

Which of the following sentences is the only one that is grammatically correct? (question from Facebook poll)

Can you help me move the furniture? It's too heavy for me to lift. ✔


I have a good new - the boss isn't coming to work today. X

I have some good news - the boss isn't coming to work today. ✔




Have you corrected my homeworks yet? X

Have you corrected my homework yet? ✔




If I were rich, I'd go on a travel around the world. X

If I were rich, I'd go on a round the world trip. ✔




If you need an advice, you should ask your sister. X

If you need (some) advice, you should ask your sister. ✔




The informations that they gave me were wrong. X

The information that they gave me was wrong. ✔





Furniture, *news, homework, *travel, advice and information are all examples of uncountable nouns.


We do not usually use the indefinite article a/an with uncountable nouns, nor do they have plural forms.

*News is an uncountable noun that ends in "s" (it is not the plural of new).
*Travel is rare in the plural form but it is possible to say "he wrote about his travels around America" - it has the sense of "journeys".


We usually treat uncountable nouns as singular. We use a singular verb. For example:
  • The homework was really easy.
  • This music helps me relax.

We can say a something of with uncountable nouns:
  • a carton of milk
  • a piece of advice / furniture / equipment etc
  • a bottle of wine
  • a can of coke
We can use some and any with uncountable nouns (and countables):
  • I need some help.
  • Have you got any beer?
We can use a little and much with uncountable nouns (a few and many with plurals):
  • He needs to do a little exercise.
  • We haven't got much petrol left.
We can use a lot of with both countables and uncountables.




Compare the following countable and uncountable nouns:

Countable                                            Uncountable

an hour                                                  time

a suitcase                                              luggage

a job                                                     work

a euro                                                   money

a suggestion                                         advice

a song                                                   music

a picture                                              art

a wardrobe                                           furniture

a journey                                               travel

a hotel                                                   acommodation

a study                                                  research

a problem                                             trouble

a shirt                                                   trousers






Sometimes, the same noun can be countable and uncountable, often with a change of meaning.

I'm sure I heard a noise coming from upstairs.
I can't concentrate with so much noise.

I've been to London many times.
Hurry up! We don't have much time.

Would you like an ice-cream?
I ate too much ice-cream.

She has a huge house with 10 rooms.
Is there enough room for me too?

What colour is your sister's hair?
Look at the hairs on his jumper. He must have a dog or a cat.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Good entry.

Nicolas.
Montse said…
Hi, Graham. Thank you for the article about uncountable nouns. It’s really interesting. I failed the question because, as always, I mistook the word travel for journey.
I hope see you by MOJ!!
Graham said…
Nicolas,

I'll try to add an exercise for you to practise them; perhaps a dictation too.

Montse,

I HOPE TO SEE you AROUND MOJ!!

We can go for a coffee whenever you want.
lucia said…
Hi Graham,

I have read your interesting article and now I am writing my sample sentences with uncountable nouns. Hava I understand the exercise?

Happiest is more interesting than sadness.

He has bad life.

Drinking some of alcohol is good for the health.

A little of water would be beneficial for the forest.

I can’t understand fantastic novel.

Vargas Llosa wrote many novels.

There is too much sugar in the coffee.

The food is too cold.

I have fives foods every day ¿?

The painting is an art, the cinema and the theatre are others.

A piece of your luggage was over the counter.

There was many people in the conference. ¿?

This is the kind of people who thinks the things before doing.

You must never lose the hope.

I had put the uncountable nouns in bold. I believe haves lose my bold nouns


Bye, Lucía.
Graham said…
WOW! I am impressed, Lucía! And José will be pleased.

You've been working really hard. I'll be back soon to correct what you have done.

I'm going to have a few beers too. :-)
Graham said…
I'm back, Lucía. Hopefully, I have enough energy to reply to all your comments.


I have read your interesting article and now I am writing my sample sentences with uncountable nouns. HAVE I UNDERSTOOD the exercise?

HAPPINESS is more interesting than sadness.

He has A bad LIFE.

Drinking SOME ALCOHOL is good for the health.

A LITTLE WATER would be beneficial for the forest.

I can’t understand SCI-FI NOVELS.

I have FIVE MEALS every day.

PAINTING is an art, the cinema and the theatre are others.

A piece of your luggage was ON the counter.

There WERE many PEOPLE AT the conference.

THEY ARE the kind of people who THINK ABOUT things before doing THEM.

You must never LOSE HOPE.

I had put the uncountable nouns in bold. I believe I HAVE LOST my bold nouns.


Well done, Lucía.
Graham said…
I think I've just WORKED OUT how to write in bold :-)
Hi Graham! I've read this and I've written some sentences:

I´ve been there many times.
The time of the exam is over.
The examn takes two hours.
I don't have much time to finish the exanm.

Do you know where our suitcases are?
Do you konw where our luggage is?

His music is horrible.
Some songs are horrible.

I don't drink alcohol.
Yestarday I drank two beers.

Tobacco is unhealthy
I've smoked a lot of cigarrettes.

I've put some sugar in my coffe.
I've put a piece of sugar in my coffe.
I've put two spoonful os sugar in my coffe.

I've got a lot of work tonight, so I hate my job.

I've done a market study about fashion.
I work in market research department.

I like travelling.
I go on a trip to Portugal.

See you!
Graham said…
Hi Jose Luis!

Good work! I think you have got the hang of it.

exam

I've put a lump of sugar in my coffee.

I've done a market study into fashion.

I'm going on a trip to Portugal.
lucia said…
hi!.that's a pitty. I just read your comments but I have forgotten some things which I learned.

I think that it's better that I read before your corrections.

bye