Noun and its countablity

We know nouns can be classified into countable noun and uncountable noun. But sometimes i can’t remember all and would make many mistakes in writing. For example, for some material nouns like books, dictionaries. computers ,etc. You know they are countable and when to use “a” or “an” . But for others like “water” , " sand" ," milk" , and “air’, etc. You know mostly they are uncountable , of course you can express like " a glass of water “, ” a grain of sand”, " a bottle of milk " , thus they are countable in this way.
In fact, those cases are quite easy , we can tell them without any difficuty. But nouns have a great variety of forms , like the Group Noun , the Abstract Noun , the Proper Noun and so on, you may know their countablity according to the contexts or the meanings of terms , but in some cases though you know nouns are countable they mean the opposite. For example:
(1) [color=blue]Oats is a crop mainly grown in cool climate.
(2) Sheep’s [color=blue]brains is my favourite dish.
(3) He eats too little [color=blue]vegetables.
Those examples are abstracted from my grammar book, here , the author presents a special concept, called " [color=blue]Nought Concept Of Noun"(maybe i didn’t give the right translation),
And here again,
(1) They [color=blue]are [color=blue]a light [color=blue] victuals. , , Here, the author points it out that, " victuals" is uncoutable and expresses the [color=blue]"Single Concept " though it is in a pl form.
(1) They seem to have become a [color=blue]munitions supplier for half the world.
(2) [color=blue]Silks and satins put out the kitchen fire.
Here, “munitions” and “silks and satins” are uncountable, but they have the [color=blue]“Plural Concept”

In fact, here i just give those material nouns examples , i have found much to ask so far, (OMG) :stuck_out_tongue: Now, i think i am lost a bit. Because i can’t remember all the nouns and their syntactical functions , i might have written some wrong sentences like :
(1) They seem to have become [color=red]munitions supplier for half the world.
(2) He eats too little [color=red]vegetable.
(3) They are light [color=red]victuals.

Now my problems become complicated. They are about the Noun , its countablity and the Single /Plural forms.
Really want to start this topic from the above. Welcome to jump into this complex. :lol: :oops:


Hi FangFang,

A large topic indeed. Perhaps it might be an idea to have a look at the uses of the article (definite and indefinite) and that will give some direction as to which one to choose or whether it’s necessary to leave out the article altogether. As a starter I’d like to offer some material I’ve written for the site, which might perhaps be useful in relation to countable and uncountable nouns:

ESL Lesson: Articles in English: The vs. A/an

Please let me know your thoights.


Hi, Alan:
Thanks for your advice. Specially when i read your story i nearly forgot those “a " ,“an” and “the”, hehehe, a funny story. :smiley:
Well, when should we use “a” and “an” ? I think we can make right choices according to the syntactical functions of nouns , it works mostly. like,
[color=blue]A horse is a noble animal. , in this sentence, we just express something which is true , clear and common. Though we use “a” , it doesn’t mean “horse” is countable in this sentence. I mean, we can’t translate “a” and it is unneccessary. ( I think [color=blue]“horse” means uncountable in meaning here). Of course, you can say”[color=blue] Horses are noble animals",too.
That is an easy example, We can express the same meaning both with “Single " and “Plural " forms. If we think it over , we know “horse” here indicates uncountable concepts. So that is really strange. Because usually we take it for granted that [color=blue]”-s” (pl) means something that can be countable ( of course, it isn’t all the case), Like my sentence above[color=blue]" Oats is maily planted in cool climate.", here “oats” is uncoutable.
So do you think it is right or not, that we use "Single " or "Plural " forms according to the noun coutablity and its uncountablity? And about my [color=blue]"Nought Concept of Noun " , “Single Concept of Noun " and " Plural Concept of Noun” ( maybe my translations are wrong.) they seemingly include deep meanings of the syntactical functions of nouns. That is to say, you can’t tell whether a noun is countable or not just from its form, which is really hard to understand and must be improved with time passing by. Specially for us non-english speakers we would find these problems . This is a hard topic, i know. I am ready to talk more here,hehehe.
By the way, i am confused about your example , You say " the " isn’t used before abstract nouns:
[color=blue]Jealousy can be dangerous.
Would you like to give more details about this point??
I can’t agree with you completedly. "the " can be used before abstract nouns, for example:
[color=blue]The idea of the game is to hit the ball over the net.

Welcome to jump into this complex ! :lol: