What are nouns?

What are nouns?

It is time for another free English lesson! In today’s free English lesson, we will be looking at nouns. I noticed that many English learners have difficulties with countable and uncountable nouns, that is, they tend to make plural of nouns which do not have plural.

what are nouns

So, for example, they say I ate two meats today.

To avoid such mistakes, I’m going to teach you which nouns are countable, as well as show you some exceptions where nouns have different meanings depending on whether they are in singular or plural form.

 

So, before we go any further, the question is:

What are nouns?

We all know what nouns are, right? We use them to name a person, a place or a thing. That’s how nouns are defined traditionally in all languages.

English Grammar Types of Nouns

Common nouns are those used to name things, such as phone, radio, book…

Proper nouns are names of people, places, organizations and time, such as Jack, London, UNESCO, Saturday, February

As you can see, common nouns can further be divided into countable and uncountable nouns.


  •  Like the name itself says, countable nouns are those which are used to name things that you can count. We can use numbers and the article a/an with them. For example, a cat, two cats…

 

  • On the other hand, uncountable nouns are also called ‘mass’ nouns because they are the names of materials, liquids, abstract qualities and other things which we normally think of as one big mass of things. For example, think of sand. Can you count each piece of sand? Well, it would be pretty difficult. So, we can conclude that sand is an uncountable noun. Most of uncountable nouns are singular with no plural and we cannot use numbers with them. We cannot say two sand.

 

Both countable and uncountable nouns can be divided into concrete and abstract nouns. 

Concrete nouns refer to people or things that exist physically and that at least one of the senses can detect.

Abstract nouns are nouns referring to emotions, ideas, concepts, beliefs.

 

Countable concrete nouns are flower, book, star, car…

Countable abstract nouns are fear, experience, skill…

Uncountable concrete nouns are milk, water, sand…

Uncountable abstract nouns are love, peace, hate, bravery, happiness…

 

  • Some determiners can only be used with countable nouns (many, few), while others can only be used with uncountable nouns (much, little).

 

How many hours do you work?                             

How much money have you earned last month?

 

Uncountable nouns, English Grammar

 

  •  Many nouns can be either countable or uncountable, depending on how they are used.

Is ice-skating a sport? / I like sport.

 

  • We use the of-structure with uncountable nouns to express the quantity.

 

  • We cannot say a flour or two sands. Instead, we use some typical expressions to express the quantity.

 

English Grammar, Uncountable nouns, how to learn English Grammar

 


***Note that it is not always clear from the meaning whether a noun is countable or uncountable!

Many English learners struggle with the use of nouns such as information, news, and furniture because they think these are countable and use plural verbs and numbers with them.

For example, many say The informations are interesting, but this is wrong. They should say The information is interesting.

 

  • To avoid this mistake, you can use piece(s), bit(s), and item(s) with such nouns.

I've found out a piece of new information.

 


There are special cases in which some nouns can be either countable or uncountable. They are countable when they mean something separate and individual. On the other hand, they are uncountable when they mean a kind of material or substance. Also, animals, vegetables, and fruit are uncountable when we cut or divide them.

Here are a few examples of such nouns:

I bought a nice carpet for the living-room.

We bought two square meters of carpet. – In this case, carpet means a kind of material.

He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

The church was built in stone. – In this case, stone means the kind of material in which the church was built.

Put some chicken in the sandwiches.

You can buy a whole chicken.

 

Special cases of countable/uncountable nouns

 

The following list contains nouns which can be countable or uncountable, depending on the context and the meaning.

 

**Note that the countable noun often means a specific example, while the uncountable noun has a more general meaning.

English Grammar, Specific cases with nouns, what are nouns, English nouns

 

In these specific cases, we often have an uncountable abstract noun with a general meaning, which in certain contexts becomes a countable abstract or concrete noun, expressing a specific meaning.

Let’s explain this further:

I just had an interesting experience – I met John right outside my building.

Here, experience is a countable abstract noun, referring to a specific situation, and it is synonymous with encounter.

Do you have any experience in this field of work?

In this case, experience is an uncountable abstract noun, and it means knowledge, skill, training.

 

Some nouns used for feelings are singular when used as a complement.

These nouns are delight, pity, pleasure, relief, shame, and wonder.

They are usually used in sentences like It’s a pity you can’t come. or It is a pleasure to see you.

 

Some abstract nouns can be used either in the plural, or as uncountable nouns after some, any, a lot of, much, or little.

Such nouns include: advantage, benefit, chance, choice, change, comment, criticism, detail, difference, difficulty, effect, effort, idea, impact, point, reason, response.

I haven’t noticed any changes / any change in the situation.

 

When you want to order food or drink, you can use phrases like a juice and two coffees.

In these cases, the plural means how many glasses or cups of something you want.

Three coffees, please. – This means that you want to order three cups of coffee.

Some uncountable nouns can be countable when they mean ‘kind(s) of’.

One of such nouns is wine.

There are lots of different wines here.

 This means that there are many different kinds of wine there.

 

That’s it! This is all you have to know about nouns. Stay tuned for more because next time, we’ll say a few things about adjectives.