Countable and uncountable nouns

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.

Instructions

As you watch the video, look at the examples of countable and uncountable nouns. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, countable and uncountable nouns correctly.

Transcript

Daisy: So, our first chef is Alfie. Alfie, let’s see your ingredients.
Alfie: OK, well, I’ve got a lemon, an apple and some garlic, some butter and some chicken breasts ...  livers! Ah, chicken livers!
Daisy: Mmm ... chicken livers ... an unusual choice. Are you feeling confident?
Alfie: Well, sort of. It’s a challenge!
Daisy: OK ... now to Oliver. Hi, Oliver.
Oliver: Hello.
Daisy: What ingredients have you got, Oliver?
Oliver: OK, well I’ve got a steak, some red chilli peppers, some potatoes, cream, onions and some giant prawns.
Daisy: Wow – an interesting selection. How do you feel about the competition?
Oliver: I’m pretty confident.  I mean ... steak and prawns, or chicken livers ... I know which I prefer!
Daisy: OK, well, we’ll be back later.

Mum: Hi, love.
Daisy: Hi, Mum. Where are you?
Mum: At the airport. What’s going on there?
Daisy: Well, right now Alfie and Ollie are having their Master Chef cooking competition.
Daisy: Only 53 minutes left!
Mum: OK, love, see you soon.
Daisy: Bye, Mum – if you’re lucky, you’ll arrive home in time to taste the dishes!
Mum: Hmm ... shall I bring some fish and chips just in case?

Daisy: Let’s taste the pâté first, Mum.
Mum: OK, it smells and looks delicious!
Oliver: OK, OK. Try it first, judges. It’s all in the taste.
Daisy and Mum: Oooooh, that’s amazing!
Mum: Mmmm! I could eat it all!
Alfie: Wow, thanks Sophie!
Oliver: OK, leave some space for my dish!
Daisy: Mmmm ... it’s tasty ... whoa! How many chili peppers?
Mum: Wow, it’s good, Oliver! It’s a taste of Thailand! It’s going to be a difficult decision.
Mum and Daisy: This year’s Master Chef champion is ...

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?

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Comments

Submitted by cherry00 on Sat, 07/23/2022 - 10:34

For me speaking English is a piece of cake. I have studied it since I was 6.

Submitted by student on Mon, 07/18/2022 - 15:25

great.i love this complete explanations.

Submitted by Baldbanana on Mon, 07/11/2022 - 11:11

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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Submitted by demiryumruk27 on Sat, 02/26/2022 - 12:57

hi! Englıish is so so pieces of cake for me. I try to learn it.
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Submitted by FlowerQueen on Wed, 07/07/2021 - 15:05

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.

Submitted by hermione123 on Thu, 07/08/2021 - 11:54

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

In reply to by FlowerQueen

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Submitted by Johannes2010 on Thu, 11/18/2021 - 15:40

yesi am from austria and german is one of the hardest languages... Tschüss1(its bye in german)

In reply to by hermione123

Submitted by liz15 on Wed, 06/09/2021 - 02:19

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.

Submitted by hermione123 on Wed, 06/09/2021 - 12:54

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!

In reply to by liz15

Submitted by Arivelde on Fri, 03/12/2021 - 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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Submitted by Kostantinus on Fri, 01/22/2021 - 09:57

If you speak English often so it is definitely a piece of cake for you! Practice makes perfect!

Submitted by hermione123 on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 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.

Submitted by naoescoto00251 on Tue, 11/03/2020 - 17:36

Yes, this is a very simple activity

Submitted by 11mo on Mon, 10/26/2020 - 07:29

It is very easy to me. Because I alway use this app. So i think english is easy.

Submitted by Luna on Tue, 08/11/2020 - 09:07

No , it's hard with me
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Submitted by Giovannichoi on Tue, 07/21/2020 - 05:44

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.

Submitted by TR790 on Wed, 05/20/2020 - 15:30

Well, it's hard to say. I can speak English but I'm not a pro at it.

Submitted by Rurru27 on Fri, 05/08/2020 - 09:56

Yes, if it's pretty easy for me to speak English.

Submitted by NuChio on Wed, 05/06/2020 - 18:10

yes it is very easy :)

Submitted by marchese on Mon, 03/23/2020 - 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.

Submitted by FedericoB8 on Sun, 03/22/2020 - 12:20

No, for me speaking english is very difficult. This year I hope to improve my english.

Submitted by Micheleanto on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 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 ).

Submitted by editor_rachael on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 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 

In reply to by Micheleanto

Submitted by asiasantin on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 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

Submitted by BttChiara on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 15:06

Yes, it is. I love studying and speaking English, so this isn’t a problem for me.

Submitted by ballerinichiara on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 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.

Submitted by bea_mara on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 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!

Submitted by Naogiosu7 on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 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

Submitted by rrfalletto on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 13:04

For me spaking English isn't a peace of cake. But more i study English more i find it simple

Submitted by gattifederica on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 12:59

For me speaking English isn’t a piece of cake. I’m good at writing in English, but in speaking I haven’t a good pronunciation. However, I’m able to understand most of the things said.

Submitted by Carolina000 on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 12:35

For me speaking in English is not peace of cake at all, being Italian my native language it still takes me some time to handle English well.

Submitted by beasam0109 on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 12:08

For me, english is not a piece of cake but for a foreigner I think it is easier to learn english than italian, especially with a grammatical aspect

Submitted by JasmineD03 on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 10:45

For me speaking english is not a piece of cake. I have been studying for nine years but I still don't understand and don't speak english as I would like. English is a beautiful language, also for my future I will need a lot because nowadays all over the world speak english. For this reason in fourth grade I would like to do a year abroad, because I think that only by going to England will I be able to learn and speak English as well as possible.

Submitted by Desy on Thu, 03/19/2020 - 18:03

For me speaking English is not a piece of cake, but I know that if I work hard I'm very good and that I can say very interesting things!

Submitted by Ely on Thu, 03/19/2020 - 17:27

for me speak english isn't simple how to eat a piece of cake, but in the futur with my study english will became for me a piece of cake.

Submitted by MatildePace on Wed, 03/18/2020 - 17:51

For me speaking English is not a pice of cake. However more I study English more I find it simple. At the same time, I think English is a simple Language, especially in grammar. Italian is more complex. But sooner or later the English will be lika a pice of cake for me.

Submitted by giorgia_marchetti on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 14:14

I think that speaking english isn’t simple. When i speak english i don’t remember grammar rules and i mistake many tinghs. Bue Now i’m studing english because is very important for my future

In reply to by MatildePace

Submitted by _auro_ on Fri, 03/20/2020 - 14:34

for me, conversing in English is a strong point, I have a lot of fun, it is my favorite language, I would like to know how to speak it as well as Italian. I think English on a grammatical level is easier than Italian besides everything.

In reply to by MatildePace

Submitted by Rohan26 on Tue, 08/06/2019 - 16:13

The expression a piece of cake means something is really easy but speaking English is not piece of cake for me but it will happen soon.
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Submitted by Shashi on Wed, 07/10/2019 - 12:38

Speaking English is easy for me.It 's a piece of cake.But grammar English is never be a Piece of cake for me particularly.

Submitted by leader on Fri, 06/28/2019 - 14:44

no ever.for me speaking english is a hard things I can't talk with english and I don't know what's the problem .when I begin to talk I don't find words and I am scared to talk with my friends or my teacher PLEASE HELP

Submitted by editor_rachael on Sat, 06/29/2019 - 17:32

Hi leader,

 

Sorry to hear you find speaking English such a challenge! Have you seen our Speaking skills section? Here you can find interactive videos of conversations which you watch, and then repeat the dialogue of one of the speakers. This could be a great way to privately build your confidence with speaking, so that you start to feel able to practise with a friend! Good luck!

 

Rachael
LearnEnglish Teens team

In reply to by leader

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Submitted by Daisy2445 on Thu, 09/06/2018 - 09:14

Countable and uncountable nouns are a piece of cake for me!!

Submitted by Pippatwo on Thu, 06/07/2018 - 14:00

It's very much a piece of cake mostly. The only hard part is knowing that British and American English are so different when trying to learn the other version completely.

Submitted by GiovanaSarai on Wed, 01/31/2018 - 22:26

I think with this exercise we were can more vocabulary.
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