LEARNING COUNTABLE and UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS
English is one of the main subjects in the school. The students are expected to master language skills such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The primary goal of learning English for this level as the expectation of the Competency Based Curriculum for students is to make students have knowledge and capability to use English in four language skills. The students hope to be able to change singular noun to be plural form. There are two kinds of noun if we see form the form of the noun; they are singular and plural nouns. Singular nouns which refer to one in number, for example: book, car, lamp, etc. plural noun is noun which refers to more than one in number which usually signed by adding “s” or “es” at the end of the word, for example: books, cars, lamps, etc.
Then, Plural noun is divided into two kinds; they are regular and irregular plural noun.
In English, nouns heading noun phrases are typically either countable or uncountable (also called count and mass). Knowledge of countability is important when translating from a source language without obligatory countability distinctions to a target language that does make number distinctions. Nouns is a word that refers to thing, place or people. First, according to Elaine and Darcy Jack (1985: 64) nouns is a kind of class word which refers to living or unloving thing and person, for example cat, book, John, etc. they classify nouns into singular nouns, plural nounsm countable nouns, uncountable nouns, masculine nouns, feminime nouns and neuter nouns. Second, Patricia K. Werner and Mary Mitchel Church (1951: 48) say that nouns is a word which refers to thing, idea, quantity and emotion, for example home, love, students, etc. they classify nouns into two main categories, they are abstract and concrete nouns.
Nouns is a word that refers to thing, place or thing. According to Betty (1985: 23) noun can be classified based on the way we see it. If we see from the way see it, noun can classify into two; they are concrete and abstract noun. Then, if we see from the form, noun can be classified into two they are singular and plural noun. If we see from the way to count, we can classify into two; they are countable and uncountable noun.
A noun can be countable or uncountable. Countable nouns can be "counted", they have a singular and plural form. A Countable Noun is a noun that has both a singular and a plural form. The plural is normally made by the addition of '-s'.
eg: A horse Two horses
Nouns that do not have plural forms are called uncountable nouns or mass nouns.
• A book, two books, three books .....
• An apple, two apples, three apples ....
Uncountable nouns (also called mass nouns or non count nouns) cannot be counted, they are not separate objects. This means you cannot make them plural by adding -s, because they only have a singular form. It also means that they do not take a/an or a number in front of them.
(use a/an or a number in front of countable nouns) Uncountable
(there is no a/an or number with uncountable nouns)
An Apple / 1 Apple Rice
I eat an apple every day. I eat rice every day. (not I eat a rice every day.)
Add (s) to make a countable noun plural There is no plural form for an uncountable noun
I eat an apple every day. Apples are good for you. I eat rice every day. Rice is good for you.
A computer= Computers are fun. To make uncountable nouns countable add a counting word, such as a unit of measurement, or the general word piece. We use the form "a ....... of ......."
An elephant=Elephants are large. Rice=a grain of rice
Water=a glass of water
Rain=a drop of rain
Music=a piece of music
You can use some and any with countable nouns.
Some dogs can be dangerous.
I don't use any computers at work. You can use some and any with uncountable nouns.
I usually drink some wine with my meal.
I don't usually drink any water with my wine.
You only use many and few with plural countable nouns
So many elephants have been hunted that they are an endangered species.
There are few elephants in England.
You only use much and little with uncountable nouns.
I don't usually drink much coffee.
Little wine is undrinkable though.
You can use a lot of and no with plural countable nouns.
No computers were bought last week.
A lot of computers were reported broken the week before. You can use a lot of and no with uncountable nouns.
A lot of wine is drunk in France.
No wine is drunk in Iran.
Making uncountable nouns countable
You can make most uncountable noun countable by putting a countable expression in front of the noun.
• A piece of information.
• 2 glasses of water.
• 10 litres of coffee.
• Three grains of sand.
• A pane of glass.
Sources of confusion with countable and uncountable nouns
The notion of countable and uncountable can be confusing. Some nouns can be countable or uncountable depending on their meaning. Usually a noun is uncountable when used in a general, abstract meaning (when you don't think of it as a separate object) and countable when used in a particular meaning (when you can think of it as a separate object).
- glass : A glass of water. (Countable) | A window made of glass. (Uncountable)
Some supposedly uncountable nouns can behave like countable nouns if we think of them as being in containers, or one of several types.
This is because 'containers' and 'types' can be counted.
Believe it or not each of these sentences is correct:-
Doctors recommend limiting consumption to two coffees a day. (Here coffees refers to the number of cups of coffee) You could write; "Doctors recommend limiting consumption to two cups of coffee a day."
The coffees I prefer are Arabica and Brazilian. (Here coffees refers to different types of coffee)
You could write; "The types of coffee I prefer are Arabica and Brazilian."
Rules For Using Singular
Countable Nouns Rules For Using Plural
1. A determiner must be used before noun(or adverb if adjectives are used, such as a, the, this, one, ours, his etc. 1.A determiner is optional before noun(or adverb if adjectives are used.
2. The article "a" or :an" can be used. 2. The articles "a" or "an" can't be used.
3.Only the number one can be used to state the amount. 3. Any number bigger then two can be used to state an amount.
4. Possessive adjectives my be used such as my, his, our etc. 4.Possessive adjectives my be used such as his, our, etc.
5. Quantifiers can't be used.
5. Quantifiers can be used, such as some, any, many, a lot etc.
6. A demonstrative adjectives can be used such as this, those etc. 6. A demonstrative adjectives can be used such as this, those etc.
Examples of Countable Nouns:
Nouns Nouns In The Singular Form Nouns In The Plural Form Nouns Represented By A Number
dog The dog is big. The dogs are big. There are six dogs in the room.
boy The boy is tall. The boys are tall. There are three tall boys in my class.
car Our car is green. All the cars at work are white. There are six cars parked on my street.
window The window is big. The windows are clean. The room has three window.
ANALYSIS / DATA
When we speak of nouns as being countable or uncountable, it is mean that some things can be counted while others cannot. Countable nouns name individual items that can add up, there can be one or more of them. Other things can not be counted, they are considered collective rather than individual items. In many cases this distinction is easy to understand. We all recognize that we can count items like books, tables, eggs, or mountains. We can easily imagine one or more of such items. And most of us recognize that it is not impossible to count other things like water, dust, air, or ice cream. These things can not easily be separated into individual items.
But many nouns are uncountable for less obvious like peace, happiness, wealth and knowledge are countable. So are many activities such as swimming, eating, and debauchery, and some conditions such as confusion, frustration, satisfaction, and certainly. These nouns are considered uncountable because they are not easily identified as single things, the idea of happiness can consist of many different things and can be different for different people or because they refer to general activities rather than specific instances, eating refers to the activity in general, not any particular example.
The name of most disciplines are also uncountable, for example, sociology, medicine, anthropology. Nouns ending in –ism are also usually uncountable, for example feminism, optimism and patriotism. Some uncountable nouns like money, homework, work and gossip very confusing for learners. Of English because they seem to refer to particular items, yet they are treated as general.
Noun can be classified basically into two categories, they are singular and plural noun. Singular noun is noun which refers to one in number, for example: book, car, lamp, etc. plural noun is noun which refers to more than one in number which usually signed by adding “s” or “es” at the end of the word, for example: book, cars, lamps, etc. then, Plural noun is divided into two kinds; they are regular and irregular plural noun.
Regular plural noun is noun which denotes more than one that has rules, for example: book --- books, car ---- cars, lamp --- lamps, etc. singular with end “y” and there is a consonant before it, so “y” is changed into “I” and added by “es”. Singular with end “y” and there is a vowel before it, so “y” is not changed but only added “s”. Irregular plural noun is noun which denotes more than one that has special rules, for example: child --- children, mouse --- mice, fish --- fish, etc. so we should know the in forming regular plural noun there are some rules whether by adding “s” or “es” at the end of the singular noun.
Then, in forming irregular nouns, there are several rules that different from regular noun such as noun that have vowels’ changes, the noun that end in – f or – fe only added with –s to form their plural, the noun that end in – f or – fe must be changed to –ves, etc. The students also using plural nouns in their writing, plural nouns is one aspects of the sentence, so the students must mastering how to form plural nouns with correct grammar in their writing.
The plural nouns are taught for increasing ability of the students in forming plural nouns, differentiating plural nouns, and using plural nouns in the sentence.
Senior high school students have already studied about nouns; like using singular noun and plural nouns but sometimes most of them still make mistakes in form plural nouns. This happened because the students might not be able to form what the regular plural nouns and irregular plural nouns. When the writer did teaching practice before, the teacher said that the students do not know all the rules to form plural noun. Then, while doing teaching practice the writer found some students made mistakes in using plural noun.
Here are some rules we came across:
1. Countability comes with a determiner such as, a or an.
What quickly became clear to us was that most uncountable nouns can easily be made into countable ones with a few adjustments.
Let's take milk; this can become a glass of milk. Coffee can become a cup of coffee, some would argue that a coffee is also correct. Is it therefore correct to say "I'd like a water"? Probably, yes. Sand can become a grain of sand, luggage becomes a piece of luggage, and so can courage become an example of courage? Impatience, a moment of impatience? It would seem so. What about chicken? We can say a chicken or some chicken. So some nouns can be both, depending on your meaning. Wood, can be for making a table or a wood can be a forest.
Let's get back to chicken, if we can take a piece of chicken and say I have some chicken, can we also take a chair, detach the leg from it, hold it up and proudly declare you have some chair? It seems not. And can we not saw away at a table, take a chunk of wood from it, walk into work and say, "Look, I have some table?" It seems not. Why? Well, the reason seems to lie in boundaries. When you have a table leg, it is no longer recognizable as a table, the definition of "table" has been lost, the boundary has been broken. However, getting back to chickens, when you rip a leg off a chicken (preferably a dead one), it is still recognizable as chicken, its boundary hasn't been broken. Similarly if I take a cup of sugar and pour some on the table it is still sugar, uncountable. So a rule is formed;
2. When a noun is separated and the boundary isn't broken it is uncountable.
This rule was nicely backed up by Woody Allen running around in one of his films, seemingly at last a proud landowner, dirt scooped up into his hands declaring, "I have some land!"
Or is it?
What became clear to us, as we began drawing on our instinct as native speakers and English teachers, is that there were often no right or wrong sentences. It's just a case of different sentences can conjure up different images in the mind of the listener. We also quickly drew the conclusion that some of this could well confuse a learner. And it was just there that Scott Thornbury came to the rescue. Scott, by the way, is the author of "How to Teach Grammar" (Longman), a recommended book from this session. He says that different level learners need to know different things, especially about grammar. One of the mistakes of some teachers is to tell students the wrong information about a grammatical point, information they may not yet need to know.
Take a simple example. When you teach beginners the use of "some" and "any", you would tell them that "some" is for positive sentences and "any" for negatives or questions. You would not need to tell them that you can use "some" in questions if you expect the other person to say yes, and "any" if you want them to say no. As in, "do you want some more wine?" or "do you want any more wine?" This is knowledge overload and the same is true for countable nouns. For a beginner you may teach that a person is countable and the plural is people. You may not want to say at this stage that people can also be countable if you are talking about a race, as in China has 56 peoples. At this point in our session we looked at handout 2 COMMON QUESTIONS. This is a list of common questions that students ask about this topic. If you open that now then the comments below will make more sense.
Comments on COMMON QUESTIONS
1. "Fish" is the singular and plural form. In more formal and old English you may have seen "fishes" for the plural, this is however, rare nowadays. Whilst some of us felt fishes was correct to describe different species, others felt saying 2 types/species of fish was the correct usage. Referring back to boundaries, if a fish farmer were to say to you "Would you like some fish?", is he offering to sell you a batch of trout, or is he inviting you to taste his dinner?
2. One people, two peoples. How many peoples are there in China, by the way?
3. A would be the normal answer. D is correct if you are referring to a specific fire.
4. B. is more common.
5. 1. ia A, 2. should be "The science".
6. 1. Fruit. 2. Fruits or fruit.
7. Knowledge is uncountable.
8. "Do" can be used as a noun, as in "the do's and the don'ts". While we say that's a don't, we wouldn't say that's a do, we'd say that's a must or a must-do. However, if we say a do, we could be referring to a party (as in "what a dry do!"...a party with little alcohol). Alternatively, it could refer to a hair do!
9. Time is countable. One time, two times. How many times? However, when we say how much time do you need? it is uncountable, the units of time (minutes, seconds or hours etc...) could be countable. This was a tricky one for the philosophers of the group who insisted that time doesn't exist, therefore how can you count it? If time is just an abstract concept and the only moment is now, how can you measure time?
10. Sheep and deer are like fish, in the sense they are both singular and plural countable nouns. Cattle, though is uncountable. You could say a head of cattle, to refer to one. There are many unusual collective nouns in English, such as a herd of cows, a school of fish, a flock of seagulls, an army of ants, does anybody know what a group of starlings are called?
12. Countable and more colloquially uncountable.
13. A. a paper is often used to refer to a thesis or a newspaper.
14. Experience can be either countable or uncountable, and the meaning doesn't change. I have a lot of experience, or many experiences. Character, can be either but the meaning changes. He has a lot of character, means he has a strong personality, however, many characters in a play refers to the people of the play.
15. "in good condition" is for inanimate objects, "in good health" for people.
16. Consult a good grammar book for the correct usage! Good ways of teaching it maybe through using collocations (e.g. there's plenty of time), set phrases (e.g. there's little time to waste), humor (e.g. "there are little people in the class today." "Really and where is Snow White?") or physical realia (e.g. use glasses or bowls with a lot or a little water).
17. See first handout on UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS. We also agreed that, "the" is specifying or identifying, and "a" is classifying.
Also, consider the phrase "Save the Whale!" Why is it "the" whale? It's not one particular one we have seen, is it? Apparently not. This is an example of a culturally identified stereotype. We are referring to all whales. If we said, "Save whales!" it may only refer to some whales, somewhere, in a vague kind of way. However, why do we say, "we must save time" not "we must save the time"? And as some people argued, can we save time anyway? Can you put it in a box and keep for when you are older? Doesn't everyone get the same amount of time? And before philosophy takes over, as it certainly did with us in this session, this seems a good moment to stop.
Azhar, Betty Scramper. 1985. Fundamental of English Grammar. New Jersey: Pretice Hall Regent Englewood Clifts.
Azhar, Betty Scramper. 1989. Understanding and using English
Laycock, Henry, 2005 'Mass nouns, Count nouns and Non-count nouns