It’s the day of Oliver and Alfie’s cooking competition. Daisy is filming the chefs in action, and Mum is on her way home.

Some nouns in English are countable – we can use them in singular and plural forms. Some are uncountable  they only have one form.

We often use a/an with singular countable nouns and some with plurals. We can also use some with uncountable nouns.

What are examples of countable nouns?

Here are a few:

I've got a steak, some red chilli peppers, some potatoes…
OK, well, I've got a lemon, an apple … and some chicken breasts.
I'd like a blue pen, please.

OK, so for things you can count, like one pen, two pens … Why did you say a pen, not one pen?

We often use a/an before singular countable nouns. Before words that start with a vowel sound, we use an, and before words that start with a consonant sound, we use a.

So is one wrong? As in Would you like one drink?

It sounds as if you're saying one (not two). If you're offering someone a drink, you'd say Would you like a drink?

But someone who works in a café might say, So that's one coffee and two lemonades.

So it's usually a or an for singular countable nouns and a number or some for plurals. How many is some?

It can be any number more than one.

I got some new jeans at the weekend. (a pair of new jeans)
Some teachers left at the end of the year. (we don't know how many)

Is some or a number always used with plurals?

No, have a look at these examples

I'm frightened of dogs. (dogs in general)
Strawberries have a lot of vitamin C. (strawberries in general)

What about uncountable nouns?

These are nouns that don't have a plural form.

I've got some garlic and some butter.
I'm looking for information about early rock and roll.
I haven't got enough paper.
You have to get permission from the head teacher.
Do you want some cake?

So, I can use some with uncountables too?

Yes, we use some with both countables and uncountables.

How do I know whether a noun is countable or uncountable?

A dictionary will tell you. Usually dictionaries use symbols [C] for countable and [U] for uncountable.

Just a minute. You said cake was uncountable. What about I made a cake this morning?

Yes that's correct, but there's a difference in meaning.

I made a cake this morning. (a whole cake – countable)
Do you want some cake? (a piece of cake – uncountable)
A box of chocolates. (individual chocolates – countable)
I'd like some chocolate too. (a piece or pieces of chocolate from a bar of chocolate – uncountable)

I thought coffee and lemonade were uncountable too.

Yes, they are usually.

I love coffee with hot milk. (uncountable)
Can you get some coffee? (uncountable)
I'll have a coffee, please. (a cup of coffee, countable)

Wow, so it's more complicated than I thought.

No, they're not really very difficult.

OK, they're easy. It's a piece of cake

Yes, simple! A piece of cake!

Discussion

The expression a piece of cake means something is really easy. Is speaking English a piece of cake for you?

Comments

Baldbanana's picture
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Baldbanana 11 July, 2022 - 12:11

I think that every language isn't just a piece of cake. There are always many exceptions and different unusual rule, but I think, that for me, English will be very beneficial in the future.

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FlowerQueen's picture
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FlowerQueen 7 July, 2021 - 16:05

Speaking English is very easy for me, but it is my third language. I learn English at school since 1 grade. I can speak German, English and Korean. Next year, I'm going to learn French at school.

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hermione123's picture
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hermione123 8 July, 2021 - 12:54

Whoa... You can speak so many languages. i kinda want to learn german. Is german hard?

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liz15's picture
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liz15 9 June, 2021 - 03:19

In my case speaking English is not a piece of cake, in fact it is very difficult, I try to study every day, but when I want to talk to another person it scares me, my brain begins to think a lot as if this was the correct order of the words ?, or are you sure of the pronunciation ?, think everything at the same time, and sometimes I don't know what to say, I try to improve every day but it's not easy, but I like difficult things.

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hermione123's picture
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hermione123 9 June, 2021 - 13:54

it's just fine. i've been there before, and most people who learns it as a second language too. all you need is just keep going. don't be nervous, it's okay to make some mistakes!

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Arivelde's picture
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Arivelde 12 March, 2021 - 21:42

If you are a person who practices the language daily, it's a piece of cake, but if not, and you just practice sometimes or once a week, it could be a bit harder. Practice is everything!

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hermione123's picture
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hermione123 1 January, 2021 - 01:29

I can't say that learning english is easy. but persoanally, learning english is very interesting, so every time it gets harder I will always try to understand it.

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Giovannichoi's picture
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Giovannichoi 21 July, 2020 - 06:44

Yeah!!! English is very easy!! That's true!! Speaking, writing, listening... The only hard part I think was just British diction, but I'm used to it now.

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marchese's picture
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marchese 23 March, 2020 - 08:41

No, actually I find it quite difficult to speak English but I try to commit myself so I am almost always satisfied with my results.

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Micheleanto's picture
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Micheleanto 20 March, 2020 - 17:22

For me say “a piece of cake” is incorrect, is better say “some cake” because how to say “a piece of bread” ( incorrect ).

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editor_rachael's picture
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editor_rachael 20 March, 2020 - 19:34

Hi Micheleanto!

 

It's OK, you can say 'a piece of cake' and 'a piece of bread'. They mean the same as 'a slice of'.

 

Hope you're having fun practising your English here!

 

Best wishes,

 

Rachael
LearnEnglish Teens team 

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asiasantin's picture
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asiasantin 20 March, 2020 - 15:23

No, speaking English I think it is no child's play for anyone, more than speaking learning to do it. Although English is complicated and a very important language that we must all know very well

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ballerinichiara's picture
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ballerinichiara 20 March, 2020 - 14:51

In my opinion English is quite simple than the Italian!
In English the grammar is less detailed and the verbs are more simple to learn.

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bea_mara's picture
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bea_mara 20 March, 2020 - 14:47

For me speaking English is not so difficult, but sometimes I have pronunciation problems, but nothing that cannot be solved with a listening and speaking exercise!

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Naogiosu7's picture
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Naogiosu7 20 March, 2020 - 13:30

The expression a piece of cake means something is really easy, but speak english is not easy for my, but it's a beautiful lauguage

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