Uncountable nouns

Here is a table of common nouns which are normally uncountable. This means that they don’t have a plural form, and they cannot be preceded by ‘a’ or ‘an’.

Many are words that you find in the business world, so it’s good to learn them and make yourself and your company look good!

advice air art blood butter
data deodorant equipment evidence food
furniture garbage graffiti grass homework
information knowledge luggage mathematics meat
milk money music paper pollution
progress sand soap software sugar
traffic transport trash water wood

For example, you cannot say, “I got some good advices from them.”
Nor can we say, “I got a good advice from them.”
We have to say, “We got some good pieces of advice from them” or “We got some good advice from them.”
The same works for ‘information’ and ‘knowledge’.

Many uncountable words (in linguistics ‘mass nouns’) are:

  • liquids (water, juice, oil, petrol etc)
  • powders (sugar, sand, cement, plaster etc)
  • substances (metal, wood, stone, rock, pollution etc)
  • subjects (mathematics, geography, biology etc)

Of course, we can say ‘metals’ when we mean ‘kinds of metal’.
‘A wood’ is a kind of wood, an area of trees or a golf club. We can also say,”His golf ball is lost in the woods.”
‘A stone’ is a kind of stone or an individual piece – the same applies to rock.
If we say ‘a beer’ or ‘a juice’ it is just short for ‘a can of beer’ or a ‘carton of juice’.

Many words just cannot be made plural by adding an ‘s’:
Luggage, furniture and equipment (these act in exactly the same way, so learn them together) – you cannot say ‘luggages, furnitures or equipments’, but you can say, “I have a lot of luggage/furniture/equipment,” or “I have three pieces of luggage/furniture/equipment.”

We talk about ‘the arts’ when we are discussing different kinds of art, including the dark kind. However, we cannot say, “We have a lot of arts at home.” We say instead, “We have many artworks or pieces of art at home.” You can get around the problem by simply saying, “We have a lot of paintings and sculptures at home.”

“There is no food in the fridge!” (not ‘foods’)
“There was a lot of traffic / almost no traffic on the bypass this morning.”
“I have no money in the bank – it’s all gone on bills!”

There are many more, and they don’t all act in the same way. Use a dictionary, but if you get stuck, use the form below to ask me – it’s free 🙂

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