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Uncountable Nouns in English: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Lindsey Hays

Lindsey has taught Elementary Education, Spanish immersion, and ESL. She has a MS in Elementary Education with a BA in Spanish.

In this lesson, we'll look at uncountable nouns. How can you not count things that are people, places, or things? We'll look at examples of nouns that are just not easy to count and what makes them non-count nouns!

Uncountable Nouns

How long would it take to carry water from one well to another using only a dropper? How long would you work at moving a sand pile from one place to another using only tweezers? The characters in The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster are set to work on tasks like these in order to waste time. It would have taken them forever to complete, because water droplets and grains of sand are too many to count! In this lesson, we'll learn about uncountable nouns, like water and sand, and look at some other examples.

Count Nouns vs. Uncountable Nouns

We remember that a noun is a person, place, thing or idea. When you can count these nouns, we call them count nouns. Count nouns can be plural since there are more than one, like dog(s), school(s), or book(s).

In contrast, an uncountable noun, or non-count noun, is a noun that you cannot count. Usually there are too many tiny parts of it to know how many there are. We can't count water or sand.

Sand is a noncount noun.
Sand

Non-count nouns are always singular instead of plural. We don't ever use -s or -es with them, since there aren't a number to count. We would never say waters or sands when referring to nouns.

Examples of Uncountable Nouns

Many ideas and feelings are considered uncountable nouns, since you can't count them.

  • Happiness
  • Knowledge
  • Excitement
  • Enjoyment
  • Fun
  • Patience

Many feelings are uncountable nouns.
happiness

Liquids are usually uncountable nouns, since you can't break them up into its tiny particles.

  • Coffee
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Oil

Other uncountable noun examples:

  • Flour
  • Hair
  • Pepper
  • Wood
  • Electricity
  • Weather
  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Homework
  • Soccer

You can't put an 's' on the end of any of these words and make them plural. We use them in the singular.

Using Quantities with Uncountable Nouns

So what do we do when we want to talk about more or less of something that's a non-count noun? How do we use them if we want to talk about a lot of something we can't make plural?

Let's look at these examples:

  • In a recipe, use 3 'cups of flour'.

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