Count and Non-count Nouns and Articles for Speakers of Other Languages
Nouns are words that name things, places, people, and ideas. Right now, you may be surrounded by desks, computers, and notebooks. These are called count nouns because you can count the exact number of desks, computers, and notebooks—three desks, one computer, and six notebooks, for example.
On the other hand, you may be carrying a small amount of money in your wallet and sitting on a piece of furniture. These are called non-count nouns. Although you can count the pieces of furniture or the amount of money, you cannot add a number in front of money or furniture and simply add –s to the end of the noun. Instead, you must use other words and phrases to indicate the quantity of money and furniture.
Incorrect: five moneys, two furnitures
Correct: some money, two pieces of furniture
Count and Non-count Nouns
A count noun refers to people, places, and things that are separate units. You make count nouns plural by adding –s.
A non-count noun identifies a whole object that cannot separate and count individually. Non-count nouns may refer to concrete objects or abstract objects. A concrete noun identifies an object you can see, taste, touch, or count. An abstract noun identifies an object that you cannot see, touch, or count. There are some exceptions, but most abstract nouns cannot be made plural, so they are non-count nouns. Examples of abstract nouns include anger, education, melancholy, softness, violence, and conduct.
Label each of the following nouns as count or non-count.
- Electricity ________
- Water ________
- Book ________
- Sculpture ________
- Advice ________
Identify whether the italicized noun in the sentence is a count or non-count noun.
- The amount of traffic on the way home was terrible.
- Forgiveness is an important part of growing up.
- I made caramel sauce for the organic apples I bought.
- I prefer film cameras instead of digital ones.
- My favorite subject is history.
Definite and Indefinite Articles
The word the is a definite article. It refers to one or more specific things. For example, the woman refers to not any woman but a particular woman. The definite article the is used before singular and plural count nouns.
The words a and an are indefinite articles. They refer to one nonspecific thing. For example, a woman refers to any woman, not a specific, particular woman. The indefinite article a or an is used before a singular count noun.
Definite Articles (The) and Indefinite Articles (A/An) with Count Nouns
I saw the concert. (singular, refers to a specific concert)
I saw the concerts. (plural, refers to more than one specific concert)
I saw the concert last night. (singular, refers to a specific concert)
I saw a concert. (singular, refers to any nonspecific concert)
Write the correct article in the blank for each of the following sentences. Write correct if the sentence is correct.
- (A/An/The) camel can live for days without water. ________
- I enjoyed (a/an/the) pastries at the Bar Mitzvah. ________
- (A/An/The) politician spoke of many important issues. ________
- I really enjoyed (a/an/the) actor’s performance in the play. ________
- (A/An/The) goal I have is to run a marathon this year. ________
Correct the misused or missing articles and rewrite the paragraph.
Stars are large balls of spinning hot gas like our sun. The stars look tiny because they are far away. Many of them are much larger than sun. Did you know that a Milky Way galaxy has between two hundred billion and four hundred billion stars in it? Scientists estimate that there may be as many as five hundred billion galaxies in an entire universe! Just like a human being, the star has a life cycle from birth to death, but its lifespan is billions of years long. The star is born in a cloud of cosmic gas and dust called a nebula. Our sun was born in the nebula nearly five billion years ago. Photographs of the star-forming nebulas are astonishing.