Countable and uncountable nouns (2)

Many nouns can be used as countable or uncountable nouns, usually with a difference in meaning. Compare:

Countable
• Did you hear a noise just now?
(= a particular noise)
• I bought a paper to read.
(= a newspaper)
• There’s a hair in my soup!
(= one single hair)
• You can stay with us. There is a spare
room. (= a room in a house)
• I had some interesting experiences while
I was away. (= things that happened to me)
• Enjoy your holiday. Have a good time!

Uncountable
• I can’t work here. There’s too much
noise, (not ‘too many noises’)
• I need some paper to write on.
(= material for writing on)
• You’ve got very long hair, (not ‘hairs’)
(= all the hair on your head)
• You can’t sit here. There isn’t room.
(= space)
• They offered me the job because I had a
lot of experience, (not ‘experiences’)
• I can’t wait. I haven’t got time.

Coffee/tea/beer/juice etc. (drinks) are normally uncountable:

• I don’t drink coffee very often.
But they can be countable when you are thinking of a cup / a glass etc. So you can say:
• (in a restaurant) Two coffees and an orange juice, please.
There are some nouns that are usually uncountable in English but often countable in other
languages. For example:
accommodation
advice
baggage
behaviour
bread
chaos
damage
furniture
information
luck
luggage
news
permission
progress
scenery
traffic
weather
work

These nouns are usually uncountable., so:
i) you cannot use a/an with them (you cannot say ‘a bread’, ‘an advice’ etc.) and
ii) they are not normally plural (we do not say ‘breads’, ‘advices’ etc.):
• I’m going to buy some bread, or …a loaf of bread, (not ‘a bread’)
• Enjoy your holiday! I hope you have good weather, (not ‘a good weather’)
• Where are you going to put all your furniture? (not ‘furnitures’)
News is uncountable, not plural:
• The news was very depressing, (not ‘the news were’)
Travel (noun) means ‘travelling in general’. You cannot say ‘a travel’ to mean a journey or a trip:
• We had a very good journey, (not ‘a good travel’)
Compare these countable and uncountable nouns:

Countable
• I’m looking for a job.
• What a beautiful view!
• It’s a nice day today.
• We had a lot of bags and cases.
• These chairs are mine.
• It was a good suggestion.

Uncountable
• I’m looking for work, (not ‘a work’)
• What beautiful scenery!
• It’s nice weather today.
• We had a lot of luggage, (not ‘luggages’}
• This furniture is mine.
• It was good advice.