Unit 65. Uncountable nouns (gold, music, advice, etc.)

Nouns can be countable or uncountable. For countable nouns see Unit 66.

Uncountable nouns are, for example: gold music blood excitement

Uncountable nouns are things we cannot count. They have no plural. You cannot say “musics,” “bloods,” or “excitements.”

Before uncountable nouns you can say the/some/any/much/this/his etc.:
the music some gold much excitement his blood

But you cannot use a/an before an uncountable noun. So you cannot say “a music,” “an excitement,” or “a blood.”

You can also use uncountable nouns alone, with no article (see Unit 70):

  • This ring is made of gold. ? Blood is red.

    Many nouns can be used as countable or as uncountable nouns. Usually there is a difference in meaning. For example:

    I bought a paper. (= a newspaper – countable)
    I bought some paper. (= material for writing on – uncountable)

    There’s a hair in my soup! (= one single hair – countable)
    She has beautiful hair. (= hair on her head – uncountable)

    We had many interesting experiences on our vacation. (= things that happened to us – countable)
    You need experience for this job. (= knowledge of something because you have done it before – uncountable)

    Some nouns are usually uncountable in English but often countable in other languages. Here are the most important of these:

    advice bread information permission traffic weather

    baggage chaos luggage progress travel work

    behavior furniture news scenery trouble

    These nouns are uncountable, so (i) you cannot use a/an before them; and (ii) they cannot be plural:

  • Tom gave me some good advice, (not some good advices)

  • Where are you going to put all your furniture? (not furnitures)

  • We don’t have much luggage to carry, (not many luggages)

  • I’m afraid I have some bad news, (not a bad news) Remember that news is not plural:

  • The news is very depressing today, (not The news are …) Do not use travel to mean trip/journey:

  • We had a good trip, (not a good travel)

    Note these pairs of countable (C) and uncountable (UNC) nouns:

  • I’m looking for a job. (C) but I’m looking for work. (UNC)

  • What a beautiful view! (C) but What beautiful scenery! (UNC)

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