Using Noncount Nouns

Noncount nouns, sometimes called uncountable or mass nouns, are things, people, places and ideas that cannot be counted. They have no plural form. Noncount nouns are treated as singular nouns and take singular verbs. They may use different adjectives to describe quantity or amounts.

English learners at all levels may experience difficulty because of first language interference. Noncount nouns may be a new concept because some languages do not contain them. Additionally, an English word may be noncount while the same word may be a count noun is a student's first language.

It is best to teach noncount nouns using the meaningful context of a unit, such as food, school, or weather. There are many categories of noncount nouns. 


1. Groups of Similar Items

  • money, baggage, luggage, furniture, food

2. Studies

  • music, science, history, literature

3. Gases

  • smoke, steam, air, oxygen

4. Liquids

  • water, milk, oil, blood

5. Solids

  • paper, cheese, bread, wood

6. Abstract Ideas

  • time, fun, love, truth

7. Language

  • English, Swahili, Spanish, Arabic

8. Nature

  • weather, sunshine, heat, rain

9. Recreation

  • soccer, tennis, hockey, baseball

10. Activities

  • studying, running, swimming, work

11. Small Pieces

  • rice, salt, hair, dust


    1. Single Verbs are used with Noncount nouns.

    • The water crashes on the rocks.
    • Science is my favorite subject.
    • This bread costs for $3.
    • The rice simmers for 20 minutes.

    2. Articles may be used or not used depending upon the context.

    • The rice is cooking.
    • The weather was pleasant.
    • I play soccer on Saturday.
    • She is drinking milk.

    3. Some 

    Some can be used with both noncount and count nouns.

    • Noncount: There is some milk in the fridge.
    • Noncount: Is there some milk in the fridge? 
    • Count: There are some clouds in the sky.
    • Count: Are there some clouds today?

    4. Any, Not Any, No

    Any and No can be used with both noncount and count nouns. Not any is used for a negative statement.

    • Noncount: Do you have any rice?
    • Noncount: I do not have any rice.
    • Noncount: There is no soccer on Thursday.
    • Count: Do you have any scissors?
    • Count: We do not have any scissors.
    • Count: There are no crayons for coloring.

    4. Enough

    Enough can be used with both noncount and count nouns.

    • Noncount: There is enough money for a treat.
    • Noncount: Do you have enough money?
    • Count: There are enough carrots for lunch.
    • Count: Are there enough carrots for lunch?

      5. A Lot of / Lots of

      A lot and lots of are informal ways of saying many and much and can be used with both noncount and count nouns.

      • Noncount: He has a lot of energy.
      • Noncount: There is lots of sunshine in Hawaii.
      • Count: She has a lot of books.
      • Count: There are lots of trees in Washington.

      6. Much or Many

      Much is used with noncount nouns and many is used with count nouns.

      • Noncount: There was much joy at the birth of the baby.
      • Noncount: How much time do we have remaining?
      • Count: There are many students in the school.
      • Count: How many students are in the school?  

      7. Little or Few

      Little is used with noncount nouns and few is used with count nouns.

      • Noncount: We have a little milk in the fridge.
      • Noncount: Do you have a little milk?
      • Count: I have a few potatoes.
      • Count: Do you have a few potatoes?

        Do not use with with noncount nouns: one, each, every, both, a couple of, few, several, many and a number of 

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