Countable nouns are for things we can count using numbers. They have a singular and a plural form. The singular form can use the determiner “a” or “an”. If you want to ask about the quantity of a countable noun, you ask “How many?” combined with the plural countable noun.Notice that singular verbs are used with singular countable nouns, while plural verbs are used with plural countable nouns.
There’s a small white dog running around the neighborhood.
There are at least ten French restaurants in our city.
How many candles are on that birthday cake?
Uncountable nouns are for the things that we cannot count with numbers. They may be the names for abstract ideas or qualities or for physical objects that are too small or too amorphous to be counted (liquids, powders, gases, etc.). Uncountable nouns are used with a singular verb. They usually do not have a plural form.
Please take good care of your equipment.
Can you hear music?
I eat rice every day.
We cannot use a/an with these nouns. To express a quantity of an uncountable noun, use a word or expression like some, a lot of, much, a bit of or else use an exact measurement like a cup of, a bag of,etc. If you want to ask about the quantity of an uncountable noun, you ask “How much?”
I was feeling so stressed that I ate an entire box of cookies.
My mother uses real butter in the cakes she bakes.
Some and Any
The general rule is that any is used for questions and negatives while some is used for positive.
Both may be used with countable and uncountable nouns.
I think she will have some time to speak to you today.
(Positive – Uncountable)
I don’t think she will have any time to speak to you today.
(Negative – Uncountable)
Much/Many and a lot of
These work in the same way as some and any. Much may only be used with uncountable nouns while many is used with countable.
Were there many people at the concert?
How much money is there?
There aren’t many students.
I haven’t got much water.
Some nouns are countable in other languages but uncountable in English. They must follow the rules for uncountable nouns. The most common ones are:
accommodation, advice, baggage, behavior, bread, furniture, information, luggage, news, progress, traffic, travel, trouble, weather, work.
Be careful with the noun hair which is normally uncountable in English, so it is not used in the plural. It can be countable only when referring to individual hairs.
I found a hair in my dish! (refers to a single strand of hair)
My mum has long brown hair.