Gul Mohar Class 7 English Grammar - Ways to understand 'How to quantify nouns'

Ways to understand 'How to quantify nouns'

1. Some nouns are countable but become uncountable when we use them in a general sense.
2. There are other nouns, especially abstract and material noun, which are typically uncountable. We use the structure a... of... to quantify these nouns.
3. There is yet another category consisting of nouns which are usually uncountable but can become countable depending on usage.

Countable and uncountable

It is important to distinguish between countable and uncountable nouns in English because their usage is different in regards to both determiners and verbs.

→ Countable nouns

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.

Singular - one horse                Plural - two horses
Singular - one man                  Plural - two men
Singular - one idea                  Plural - two ideas
Singular - one shop                 Plural - two shops
Singular - one dog                    Plural - two dogs
Singular - a car                          Plural - three cars
Singular - my cousin               Plural - my two cousins
Singular - a book                      Plural - a box full of books
Singular - a city                        Plural several big cities

→ Uncountable nouns

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.
Examples: tea, sugar, water, air, rice, knowledge, beauty, anger, fear, love, money, research, safety, evidence etc.

Other examples of uncountable nouns are:
Ideas and experiences: advice, information, progress, news, luck, fun, work
Materials and substances: water, rice, cement, gold, milk
Weather words: weather, thunder, lightning, rain, snow
Names for groups or collections of things: furniture, equipment, rubbish, luggage
Other common uncountable nouns include: accommodation, baggage, homework, knowledge, money, permission, research, traffic, travel.

    Some nouns always have plural form but they are uncountable because we cannot use numbers with them. 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, a great deal of , or else use an exact measurement like a cup of, a bag of, 1kg of, 1L of, a handful of, a pinch of, an hour of, a day of. If you want to ask about the quantity of an uncountable noun, you ask "How much?"

Example:
• We’re going to get new furniture for the living room. (We’re going to get a new furniture for the living room or We’re going to get new furnitures for the living room)
• We had terrible weather last week. (We had a terrible weather last week)
• I bought two pairs of trousers. (I bought two trousers)
• There has been a lot of research into the causes of this disease
• He gave me a great deal of advice before my interview
• Can you give me some information about uncountable nouns?
• He did not have much sugar left
• Measure 1 cup of water, 300g of flour, and 1 teaspoon of salt
• How much rice do you want?

Quantity expressions (a bit/piece)

→ To refer to one or more quantities of an uncountable noun, expressions such as a bit of, a piece of, an item of or words for containers and measures must be used:
Example:
• He bought a very expensive piece of furniture for his new apartment.
• Maggie always has some exciting bits of news when she comes to see us.
• I think we’ll need five bags of cement for the patio.
• There’s a litre of milk in the fridge for you. And I bought you a bar of chocolate.

→ Determiners (my, some, the)

→ Uncountable nouns can be used with certain determiners (e.g. my, her, some, any, no, the, this, that) and expressions of quantity (e.g. a lot of, (a) little).
Example:
• They gave me some information about courses and scholarships and things.
• Have you heard the news? Govind’s getting engaged.
• She’s been studying hard and has made a lot of progress.
• There’s no work to do here, so you can go home if you like.

Countable phrases for uncountable nouns

    We can sometimes use countable noun phrases to talk about an individual example of the thing an uncountable noun refers to.

uncountable - accommodation

countable - a house, a flat, a place to live, a place to stay

uncountable - baggage/luggage

countable - a suitcase, a bag, a rucksack

uncountable - bread

countable - a loaf (of bread), a (bread) roll

uncountable - lightning

countable - a flash of lightning

uncountable - luck

countable - a stroke of luck

uncountable - money

countable - a note, a coin, a sum of money, a euro, a dollar

uncountable - poetry

countable - a poem

uncountable - rain

countable - a shower, a downpour, a storm

uncountable - travel

countable - a journey, a trip

uncountable - work

countable - a job, a task


Countable and uncountable nouns with different meanings

Some nouns can be used either countably or uncountably, but with different meanings.

Countable use - We bought a new iron and an ironing board.
Uncountable use - People believed that ships made of iron would sink.

Countable use - I broke a glass yesterday.
Uncountable use - The table was made of hardened glass.

Countable use - Would you like a chocolate?
Uncountable use - Would you like some chocolate?

Countable use - Let’s get a paper and see what’s on at the cinema.
Uncountable use - The printer has run out of paper.

Countable use - ‘Hamlet’ is one of Shakespeare’s most famous works.
Uncountable use - I had work to do so I couldn’t go out.

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