Revised 05/02, Page 2
nouns refer to people, places, or things that can be counted (one dollar/two
dollars, one house/two houses). They can always be made plural—usually by adding -
or some other variation of the plural ending (students, countries, children). A few words
are the same in both the singular and plural forms (deer, sheep).
nouns often refer to food, beverages, substances, or abstractions (meat,
tea, steel, information);
uncountable nouns (but not the abstract ones) can be
made countable by adding a
in front of them (two
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut distinction between countable and uncountable
Some nouns can be both countable and uncountable even without adding count
For example, as an uncountable noun, “experience” refers to abstract
knowledge or skill that can be gained by observing or participating in events. As a
singular or plural countable noun (“experience/experiences”), it refers to a particular
instance (or instances) of participation in events. Similarly, the uncountable noun “glass”
is a substance made from silicates; “a glass” (singular) is something you drink out of;
and “glasses” (plural) are frames containing lenses that correct imperfect vision.
There are other exceptions to the countable/uncountable distinction as well.
a noun that is countable in your native language may be uncountable in English, and
For example, “soap” is countable in Spanish but uncountable in English.
However, as long as you are aware of these differences, they probably won't cause you
dictionary, nouns are countable unless they are designated by the letter
If a noun can be either countable or uncountable (with different definitions, as in the
examples given above), then the uncountable definitions are preceded by [u], and the
countable definitions are preceded by [c], as in the following example.