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Count & Non-Count Nouns

March 10, 2016

Early on, English students learn that plural nouns end in -s and singular nouns need an article such as a, an, or the. When students realize that some nouns (e.g., collective, mass, abstract, etc.) don’t end in -s or don’t need an article, they are understandably worried about how to recognize these types of nouns. Giving students a list of categories of uncountable nouns can ease their minds and help them remember when to use articles or add -s. Scroll down for a handy list and teaching tips!

Count Nouns

Count (or countable) nouns are people, places, or things that you can easily number (e.g., one apple, two apples). Singular and plural count nouns follow common rules. Singular count nouns are preceded by an article (a/an/the), a quantifier, a possessive adjective, or a number and are followed by a singular verb, while plural count nouns take the (never a or an), a quantifier, a possessive pronoun, a number, or no article and a plural verb.

  • A friend is a gift.
  • Two friends are better than one.
  • The car in the driveway has pink tires.
  • Dogs enjoy going for walks.

Non-Count Nouns

Non-count (or uncountable) nouns are things you can’t count because they’re abstract (i.e., you can’t see them), part of a group, or too small to count. Non-count nouns follow specific rules. They never use a number or a general article such as a or an (though they can be preceded by a specific determiner such as the, a quantifier, or a possessive adjective), never end in -s, and must be followed by a singular verb.

  • Rice is part of most Japanese meals.
  • Faith gives people hope.
  • The snow was piled high this morning.
  • My furniture looks dusty.

Categories of Non-Count Nouns

Screenshot of Non-Count Nouns resource

Grammar & Usage Resources – Non‑Count Nouns


Certain non‑count nouns end in -s, such as news or school subjects (physics, mathematics), but they still follow most of the rules for non‑count nouns. They are never preceded by a number or a/an, and they must be followed by a singular verb. Remind students that we can’t count these words (we can’t say one new, two news or one physic, two physics).

  • The news brings information to people all over the world.
  • Physics is a difficult subject.


Put these tips and chart to the test in our Grammar Practice Worksheets lesson on Count & Non‑Count Nouns.

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Comments (8)

Geraldine J.(Teacher)

Hello - in the second example above, '2 friends are better than 1', is this a 'plural countable noun'? There is a number preceding the noun - could you clarify this please?
Thanks in advance

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Gerry,

Thanks a lot for your comment. Yes, “friends” is a plural countable noun. I realize now that my previous explanation was unclear because I didn’t list all the determiners that are possible with plural count nouns. I’ve reworded the text to the following:

“Singular count nouns are preceded by an article (a/an/the), a quantifier, a possessive adjective, or a number and are followed by a singular verb, while plural count nouns take the (never a or an), a quantifier, a possessive pronoun, a number, or no article and a plural verb.”

I appreciate you bringing this to my attention! Thanks.

akash (Guest)

is the word thr recipe count or non count noun?

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

It's a count noun. For example, you could say 'I loved the cookies and brownies you brought to the picnic. Can I get the recipes?'

Jeannie R.(Teacher)

Articles are so important for English Learners because they are not going to learn this concept in another setting, and because using these little words in everyday language helps students sound more fluent. Replying to your comment above. “Singular count nouns are preceded by an article (a/an/the), a quantifier..."
When I teach this concept early on, I teach students about articles, I may say the word determiner, but I don't go into a lot of detail. Later, when they are mastering the use of articles with a singular noun, then I introduce determiners which is a natural segue because most students can say "my iPhone!" :)

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Jeannie, thanks for sharing your insights. It can be a fine line knowing what to include in a "rule" and when. Sometimes it is best not to overwhelm our students with too much at once, so I like your suggestion. I give the more complete rule if I think my students can handle it or introduce one thing at a time if I think they can't. I find it often depends on the class.

Jeannie R.(Teacher)

Also, sharing a teaching tip:
I make a ridiculous show of naming articles in particular as noun markers. I actually fling my finger in the air and say, "Bing! Here comes a noun!" I did this even when I taught native speakers. It just helps students id what is a noun and then answer the question what is that noun doing? (Subject, object?)

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Great tip, Jeannie! Thanks again for sharing your insights. I love tips like this that usually make students laugh, which definitely helps with engagement and retention!

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