What is the difference between countable vs uncountable nouns? First things first: what are nouns? Nouns are words for people, places, or things (like dog, magazines, school, sister, cups, computer, and stories).
If you can count these (1 dog, 2 dogs, 3 dogs, …), they are countable nouns. You can answer the question “How many?” of them with a number. For example:
How many strawberries are in each photo?
Fill in the blanks:
Now, answer these questions:
There are 6 carrots on the cutting board. What? You can’t count water!
Some things cannot be counted.
For example, how much oil is in the pan? I don’t know.
There is some oil in the pan. A lot of oil is in the pan.
There are four oils in the pan.
Other examples of uncountable nouns are air, water, sugar, oil, rice, fruit, work, happiness, furniture, energy, clothes, soup. How do we know how much?
Count the container
Liquids (water, oil, coffee) are uncountable. So, how do you answer the question How much?
How much soup are in these pictures?
There is one soup. Well, we can count the container (the pot, the bowl).
How much wine is there?
Liquids fill containers, but sometimes there’s no container. How much cheese is there?
Knowing if there are countable vs uncountable nouns is sometimes difficult. For example, you can count spaghetti, but sometimes counting is too tiring. Imagine looking at a recipe that says “boil 138 noodles of spaghetti”. Ok, 1 noodle, 2 noodles, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, ahhhhhhhh!
Nobody wants to count pasta or rice! Also, a block of cheese can be big or small. But how small, how big?
How much is one? The word unit means one. Units are amounts that we agree equal one. Some examples of units are pound, gram, liter, day.
|weight||pound, ounce, kilogram, gram||1 pound of pasta|
|volume||liter, milliliter, cup, gallon||4 cups of water|
|length||inch, foot, centimeter, meter, mile||50 feet of cable|
|temperature||degrees Celcius, degrees Fahrenheit||68°F|
|time||second, minute, day, week, month, year||7 hours and 15 days|
|information||bit, byte, kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte||3 terabytes of data|
So, now you can answer the questions above more easily:
- There is a pound of spaghetti in the pot of boiling water.
- A quarter cup (measurement) of mint is on the cutting board.