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5.3 Count and Noncount Nouns and Articles

Learning Objectives

  1. Define and use count and noncount nouns.
  2. Recognize and use definite and indefinite articles.

NounsA word that identifies a person, place, thing, or idea. are words that name things, places, people, and ideas. Right now, you may be surrounded by desks, computers, and notebooks. These are called count nounsA noun that can be made plural by adding -s. 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 noncount nounsA noun that cannot be counted in individual units.. 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

By the end of Section 5.3.1 "Count and Noncount Nouns", you will grasp the difference between the two types of nouns and be able to use them confidently in speaking and writing.

Count and Noncount Nouns

A count noun refers to people, places, and things that are separate units. You make count nouns plural by adding -s.

Table 5.1 Count Nouns

Count Noun Sentence
Quarter It takes six quarters to do my laundry.
Chair Make sure to push in your chairs before leaving class.
Candidate The two candidates debated the issue.
Adult The three adults in the room acted like children.
Comedian The two comedians made the audience laugh.

A noncount noun identifies a whole object that cannot separate and count individually. Noncount nouns may refer to concrete objects or abstract objects. A concrete nounA noun you can see, taste, touch, or count. identifies an object you can see, taste, touch, or count. An abstract nounA noun that you cannot see, touch, or count. 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 noncount nouns. Examples of abstract nouns include anger, education, melancholy, softness, violence, and conduct.

Table 5.2 Types of Noncount Nouns

Type of Noncount Noun Examples Sentence
Food sugar, salt, pepper, lettuce, rice Add more sugar to my coffee, please.
Solids concrete, chocolate, silver, soap The ice cream was covered in creamy chocolate.
Abstract Nouns peace, warmth, hospitality, information I need more information about the insurance policy.

Exercise 1

On a separate sheet of paper, label each of the following nouns as count or noncount.

  1. Electricity ________
  2. Water ________
  3. Book ________
  4. Sculpture ________
  5. Advice ________

Exercise 2

On a separate sheet of paper, identify whether the italicized noun in the sentence is a count or noncount noun by writing C or NC above the noun.

  1. The amount of traffic on the way home was terrible.
  2. Forgiveness is an important part of growing up.
  3. I made caramel sauce for the organic apples I bought.
  4. I prefer film cameras instead of digital ones.
  5. My favorite subject is history.

Definite and Indefinite Articles

The word the is a definite articleThe word the that refers to one or more specific things.. 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 articlesThe words a and an that refer to one nonspecific thing.. 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 U2 concert last night. (singular, refers to a specific concert)

I saw a concert. (singular, refers to any nonspecific concert)

Exercise 3

On a separate sheet of paper, write the correct article in the blank for each of the following sentences. Write OK if the sentence is correct.

  1. (A/An/The) camel can live for days without water. ________
  2. I enjoyed (a/an/the) pastries at the Bar Mitzvah. ________
  3. (A/An/The) politician spoke of many important issues. ________
  4. I really enjoyed (a/an/the) actor’s performance in the play. ________
  5. (A/An/The) goal I have is to run a marathon this year. ________

Exercise 4

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.

Collaboration

Once you have found all the errors you can, share with a classmate and compare your answers. Did your partner find an error you missed? Did you find an error your partner missed? Compare with your instructor’s answers.

Key Takeaways

  • You can make count nouns plural by adding -s.
  • Count nouns are individual people, places, or things that can be counted, such as politicians, deserts, or candles.
  • Noncount nouns refer to whole things that cannot be made plural, such as salt, peace, or happiness.
  • The is a definite article and is used to refer to a specific person, place, or thing, such as the Queen of England.
  • A and an are indefinite articles, and they refer to nonspecific people, places, or things, such as an apple or a bicycle.

Writing Application

Write five sentences using the definite article the. Write five sentences using the indefinite article a or an. Exchange papers with a classmate and check each other’s work.