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.


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.


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!


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

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

I think with this exercise we were can more vocabulary.
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