Uncountable Nouns

Are you interested in 10 ready made lessons about uncountable nouns, indefinite and definite articles with Students' and Teacher's Notes?

wine joy music sugar happinesshairfun


Uncountable nouns often fall into the following categories:

  1. Human feelings and qualities: joy, anger, cruelty, happiness, honesty, deceit, pride
  2. Abstract ideas: hope, peace, beauty, death, fun, life, music
  3. Substances: sugar, food, water, wine, salt, bread, iron, blood, money, gas
  4. Activities: work, help, sleep, travel, shopping


We can use the following quantifiers with uncountable nouns:

some, a little,  a lot of, not much

  • He has a lot of money.
  • I don’t have much luggage.
  • Do you need some help?
  • A little wine is good for you

Make them Countable

We can make uncountable nouns countable with the following expressions:

a piece of, a bit of, a bowl of, a cup of, a drop of, a game of etc.

  • All I need is a drop of water.
  • Please can I have two cups of coffee.
  • Shall we play a game of tennis?
  • I love that piece of music.


Uncountable nouns normally take the verb in the singular.

  • Travel in Europe is very expensive.
  • This furniture isn’t mine.
  • The money wasn’t used properly.
  • Your information is accurate.

Countable and Uncountable

Some words can be either countable or uncountable, depending on how you use them.

  • Room
  • Is there room in the carriage for me? (is there some space for me?)
  • There are still two rooms available in the hotel.
  • Light
  • There’s not enough light here to take good photographs.
  • Both the lights were switched off. (both light bulbs were off)
  • Hair
  • If you buy a dog, be prepared to clean up a lot of hair.
  • She never has a hair out of place.
  • Paper
  • If you want to print out your thesis, make sure you have enough paper.
  • Have you seen my papers? (Have you seen my work/documents/newspapers?)

end in -s

Some nouns are singular, even though they end in –s. They normally fall into the following categories:

  • Activities: gymnastics, athletics, hurdles 
  • Games: cards, darts, billiards
  • Diseases: measles, rabies, mumps, AIDS, shingles
  • Subjects: economics, mathematics, acoustics
  • Gymnastics requires a lot of time and energy to learn.
  • AIDS is most prevalent in third world counties.
  • Acoustics is the study of sound.

Group Nouns

Some nouns refer to a group of people, animals or things. These nouns can normally take a singular OR plural verb, depending on whether we view the group as a single entity, or as several individuals together.

army, audience, committee, company, crew, enemy, family, flock, gang, government, group, herd, media, public, regiment, staff, team

  • My family are all gathering together on Christmas Day.(every person will be there)
  • My family is the best in the world.
  • The crew have done a good job.
  • The crew is celebrating the victory tonight.
  • The audience clapped their hands.
  • The audience was unresponsive.

Two-part Nouns

Some nouns that consist of two parts are used in the plural:

glasses, jeans, knickers, pincers, pants, pliers, pyjamas, scissors, shorts, spectacles, tights, trainers, trousers, tweezers

  • Where are my glasses?
  • My tights have a ladder in them!
  • My trainers need a clean.

To differentiate how many we are talking about, we can use, ‘a pair of’, ‘two pairs of’, etc.

  • I only have two pairs of jeans, and they are both dirty.
  • I’ve bought a pair of black trousers.

Practice Exercises

Exercise 1

Fill in the missing verbs and words:

  1. Gymnastics _____ my favourite sport to watch.
  2. I need a new _________ sunglasses, I’ve lost mine.
  3. AIDS ______ such a destructive disease.
  4. The government _________  planning to change the tax laws.
  5. Applied mathematics _____ so complicated.
  6. My scissors _______ blunt.
  7. The herd of cattle __________ moving to the other hill.
  8. Measles ______ very uncommon now.
  9. Don’t forget to take a ____________ pyjamas with you.
  10.  ______ athletics popular here?
  11. Where _______ my trainers?
  12. That gang ____________ vandalized our building again.

Exercise 2

Here are some quotes about various emotions. Write them onto flash cards and place them face down on the table. The students have to choose one. Without telling the others what their quote is, they need to speak for two minutes on the subject of the quote, either expressing the same opinion as the quote (but in their own words), or the opposite opinion. Give them a minute or two to prepare.

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. 

Marthe Troly-Curtin

People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Abraham Lincoln

You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness. 

Jonathan Safran Foer

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. 

Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

Exercise 3

Write the following words onto flashcards. Get the students to ask each other questions using these words.

  • advice
  • baggage
  • equipment
  • furniture
  • homework
  • information
  • knowledge
  • luggage
  • machinery
  • money
  • news
  • traffic

The above grammar presentation and activities are an extract from my e-notes on Definite and Indefinite Articles. I have written 10 step-by-step ready to teach and ready formatted lessons, with lots of fun writing and speaking activities for your students to practice. Find out more.

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  • Uncountable Nouns
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