Countable nouns  are nouns that can be counted (e.g. oranges).  So how do we know whether or not a noun is countable or uncountable? A countable noun is a noun with both a singular and a plural form.

Singular Form Plural Form
car cars
coin coins
broom brooms
baby babies
man men
onion onions
stadium stadia
table tables

Countable nouns attract the question how many.

The noun is countable:

if we can use the indefinite article a/an before it.

  • I have a ball. / I have an umbrella.

if we can use the word ‘many‘ (and notmuch‘) to describe it.

  • She has many novels. (It’s wrong to say: She has much novels.)

if we can express its quantity by using a number before it.

  • I have twelve hand bands.

if it takes on singular as well as plural forms.

  • an orange / some oranges / fifty oranges
 Uncountable nouns (also known mass nouns) are amounts of something which we cannot count (e.g. sand).
A non-countable noun is a noun without a plural form. Non-countable nouns refer to things that cannot be counted. Look at these examples:
Non-countable Noun Plural
music four musics
furniture two furnitures
tennis three tennises
mercury five mercuries

Uncountable nouns attract the question how much.

Examples of Non-countable Nouns

Category Example
Concept bravery, honesty, information, intelligence, patience
Activity homework, playing, reading, sleeping
Food bread, butter, cheese, fish, milk
Gas air, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, smoke
Liquid coffee, petrol, water, wine, beer
Material chalk, cloth, concrete, lumber, wood, metal
Item Category clothing, furniture, luggage, mail, money, software
Natural Phenomenon gravity, heat, humidity, rain, snow, sunshine, thunder
Particles dust, flour, rice, salt, sugar, sand

The noun is uncountable:

if a/an is not normally used in front of it.

  • He is eating some beans. (NOT: He is eating a beans.) Beans is treated as not countable, so some (which can be used for both countable and uncountable nouns) is used with it.

if the word much can be correctly used with it.

  • How much rice have you eaten? (NOT: How many rice have you eaten?)

if it is not possible for us to count it. However, we can make it countable by having a quantity for it.

  • I have just bought two  litres of petrol. (NOT: I have just bought two petrol.)

if it takes only a singular form.

  • some ice (NOT: some ices) / some ink (NOT: some inks) / some soup (NOT: some soups)
 Some nouns can be countable or uncountable. It depends on how they are used.


  • I boiled an egg. (Countable noun)
  • I like egg. (Uncountable noun, as it refers to egg in general.)

Countable and Uncountable Nouns are used with the following:

Countable Noun Uncountable Noun
a, an, a few, several, many, a little, much, some, plenty of,
some, plenty of, a lot of, a lot of, a large amount of,
a large number of a great deal of

Concrete Nouns

A concrete noun represents something that can be seen, touched, tasted, heard, or smelt. In other words, a concrete noun will denote something that you can perceive with one of your senses.

Examples: Box, Spoon, Chair, Apple, Cat e.t.c.

Abstract Nouns

An abstract noun is a word which names something that you cannot see, hear, touch, smell, or taste.

It is the opposite of a concrete noun.


  • consideration
  • belief
  • motivation
  • hope

It is not always easy to spot an abstract noun. For example, lots of people claim laughter is an abstract noun, but this is hotly contested by others which claim laughter can be heard, making it a concrete noun.

We would agree that laughter is a concrete noun, but what about work and result? It is possible to make cases for these being concrete nouns too, but many would consider them to be abstract. Be aware that the distinction between abstract noun and concrete noun is sometimes blurry.

Examples of Abstract Nouns

Communication, Compassion, Courage, Culture, Curiosity, Deceit, Dedication, Democracy, Determination, Energy, Failure, Faith, Fear, Freedom, Friendship, Generosity, Gossip, Happiness, Hate, Honesty, Hope, Imagination, Information, Integrity, Intelligence, Joy, Justice, Justice, Kindness, Knowledge, Liberty, Life, Love, Loyalty, Luxury, Misery.

Skill Focus: How to keep up with your English during the Holidays

  1. Oral Practice – The best way of keeping up with your English is by practising it often, talking to those you know who speak  good English is one way of improving your own.
  2. Reading Widely– WASSCE examiners often remark that they can tell who the best candidates are : they are clearly those whose use of language has improved because they have developed the habit of reading widely. So keep reading!!!
  3. Poetry – Looking at some of the poems in your English text and how interesting they are, you would be forgiven for doubting the idea that poetry is supposed to be enjoyable. It is true that many poems are very difficult to understand and that their potential for enjoyment is limited. Indeed, this applies to many of the poems on the literature syllabus. We urge you to see poetry as a source of enjoyment. In the holidays, why not look at some poetry anthologies, and find a poem you really like – and bring it to the next school term for others to share your enjoyment. Why not try writing a poem or two yourself? Any incident, large or small – a kolanut, meeting a friend, an accident, starting or ending a relationship – can trigger a poem.

Common errors

These verbs are frequently misused.

Request: Do not use ‘for’ after the verb request.

Example: She requested them to stop drinking

Make: The pattern after ‘make’ is object + infinitive, without to.

Example: She made them stop talking

Enable: The pattern is object + to + infinitive

Example: The flight enabled them to get to Lagos early.

Choose the best answer to the following.

1. The hotel receptionist ___ that the airport  bus was leaving.

a. tod to us

b. told us

c. told

d. please told us

2. The driver asked ___ our luggage in the boot of the coach

a. to bring them

b. they to put

c. them to put

d. that to put

3. A stewardess requested ___ our tickets

a. us that we should produce

b. please to produce

c. us to produce

d. that we should produce

4. At the airport, we were ordered ___ our luggage immediately at the counter

a. weighing

b. weigh in

c. to weigh in

d. us that we should weigh in

5. The official there advised ___ our hand luggage with us

a. to keep

b. that to keep

c. us to keep

d. us that to keep

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