35 Count and Noncount Nouns and Articles

Learning Objectives

  • Define and use count and noncount nouns.
  • Recognize and use definite and indefinite articles.

Nouns are words that name things, places, people, and ideas. Right now, you may be surrounded by desks, computers, and notebooks. These are called count nouns because you can count the exact number of desks, computers, and notebooks—three desks, one computer, and six notebooks, for example.

On the other hand, you may be carrying a small amount of money in your wallet and sitting on a piece of furniture. These are called noncount nouns. Although you can count the pieces of furniture or the amount of money, you cannot add a number in front of money or furniture and simply add -s to the end of the noun. Instead, you must use other words and phrases to indicate the quantity of money and furniture.

Incorrect: five moneys, two furnitures, three sugars

Correct: some money, two pieces of furniture, two teaspoons of sugar

Count and Noncount Nouns

A count noun refers to people, places, and things that are separate units. You make count nouns plural by adding -s.

Table of Count Nouns

Count Noun

Sentence

Quarter

It takes six quarters to do my laundry.

Chair

Make sure to push in your chairs before leaving class.

Candidate

The two candidates debated the issue.

Adult

The three adults in the room acted like children.

Comedian

The two comedians made the audience laugh.

A noncount noun identifies a whole object that cannot separate and count individually. Noncount nouns may refer to concrete objects or abstract objects. A concrete noun identifies an object you can see, taste, touch, or count. An abstract noun identifies an object that you cannot see, touch, or count. There are some exceptions, but most abstract nouns cannot be made plural, so they are noncount nouns. Examples of abstract nouns include anger, education, melancholy, softness, violence, and conduct.

Table of Types of Noncount Nouns

Type of Noncount Noun

Examples

Sentence

Food

sugar, salt, pepper, lettuce,

rice

Add more sugar to my coffee,

please.

Solids

concrete, chocolate, silver,

soap

The ice cream was covered in

creamy chocolate.

Abstract Nouns

peace, warmth, hospitality,

information

I need more information

about the insurance policy.

Exercise 1

Definite and Indefinite Articles

The word the is a definite article. It refers to one or more specific things. For example, the woman refers to not any woman but a particular woman. The definite article the is used before singular and plural count nouns.

The words a and an are indefinite articles. They refer to one nonspecific thing. For example, a woman refers to any woman, not a specific, particular woman. The indefinite article a or an is used before a singular count noun.

Definite Articles (The) and Indefinite Articles (A/An) with Count Nouns

I saw the concert. (singular, refers to a specific concert)

I saw the concerts. (plural, refers to more than one specific concert)

I saw the U2 concert last night. (singular, refers to a specific concert)

I saw a concert. (singular, refers to any nonspecific concert)

Two Article Rules – Reminders

The following rules will help to determine when and what kind of article needs to be used.

Rule 1: A singular count noun needs an article or a determiner.

Choose a or an if the noun is indefinite. Choose the if the noun is definite

Rule 2: A plural or non-count noun does not need an article unless it is definite.

Exercise 2

Exercise 3

Correct the misused or missing articles and rewrite the paragraph:

Stars are large balls of spinning hot gas like our sun. The stars look tiny because they are far away. Many of them are much larger than sun. Did you know that a Milky Way galaxy has between two hundred billion and four hundred billion stars in it? Scientists estimate that there may be as many as five hundred billion galaxies in an entire universe! Just like a human being, the star has a life cycle from birth to death, but its lifespan is billions of years long. The star is born in a cloud of cosmic gas and dust called a nebula. Our sun was born in the nebula nearly five billion years ago. Photographs of the star-forming nebulas are astonishing.

Key Takeaways

  • You can make count nouns plural by adding -s.
  • Count nouns are individual people, places, or things that can be counted, such as politicians, deserts, or candles.
  • Noncount nouns refer to whole things that cannot be made plural, such as salt, peace, or happiness.
  • The is a definite article and is used to refer to a specific person, place, or thing, such as the Queen of England.
  • A and an are indefinite articles, and they refer to nonspecific people, places, or things, such as an apple or a bicycle.

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College ESL Writers: Mohawk College Edition by Barbara Hall and Elizabeth Wallace is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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