TOEIC | Grammar: Count and Non-Count Nouns Previous   Up   Next   

TOEIC Grammar Guide – Count and Non-Count Nouns


Every noun can be counted, but not all nouns are counted the same way. There are two main types of nouns: count nouns and non-count nouns.

Learning Hint:

Memorize the most common non-count nouns and remember to use singular verbs with these nouns.

Count Nouns

All count nouns have a singular and plural form and are used in agreement with singular or plural verbs. Count nouns are things that exist as separate and distinct individual units. Count nouns are generally individual persons, places or objects that can be recognized by our senses.

Count Noun Type


Names of persons, their relationships and their occupations

friend, girl, accountant

Names of species, plants, insects

cat, dolphin, tree, fly

Names of objects with a finite and specific shape

bottle, computer, table, office, building

Units of measurement

centimeter, inch, meter, kilogram, pound, degree

Units of social classification

family, language, country

Some abstract concepts

idea, invention, plan


There will be two proposals submitted to the manager by 2pm.

Each office comes equiped with a computer, a desk and two chairs.

Not all great ideas lead to successful inventions.

Non-Count Nouns

Non-count nouns only have one form and are always used in agreement with singular verbs. Many non-count nouns are wholes that cannot be cut into parts or counted individually. Non-count nouns also include most shapeless objects and abstract ideas.

Non-Count Noun Type


Nouns that are whole and made up of smaller parts

sand, rice, sugar

Foods that can be purchased in various forms

meat, bread, fruit, coffee

Substances that can change shape or have various forms

oil, tea, milk, wood, iron, glass, water, wind, rain, fire, ice

Groups of things that have different sizes and shapes

clothing, furniture, luggage, cash


Italian, French, Japanese

Most -ing forms

learning, working, speaking

Abstract concepts, often with endings -ness, -ance, -ence, -ity

efficiency, progress, intelligence, beauty


Clothing is one of the common things collected to give to charity.

Water boils to become steam or freezes to become ice.

Efficiency is a characteristic in employees that managers admire.

Although non-count nouns are considered uncountable, there are times when it is necessary to explain how much of it there is or to be able to quantify it in some way. This can be done by using a measurement word or counter in combination with the non-count noun. The most common measurement words are bar, slice, piece, glass, game and cube.


I bought two bars of chocolate.

He had four slices of meat in his sandwich.

This recipe requires one glass of milk.

There are five pieces of luggage in the trunk.

We played three games of tennis.

Some nouns can be a count or non-count noun depending on the meaning of the noun used. Normally the non-count meaning is abstract and general while the count meaning is concrete and specific. Nouns that can be both include light, glass, sound, business, fire, life, noise, space, thought, success, work, war, pleasure.


Count Meaning Usage Non-count Meaning Usage

The city at night is full of bright lights.

Sound travels through space slower than light.

He has two papers due next week.

We will wrap the gift with paper.

Noun Type Indicators

Indications of what kind of noun is in a sentence can be determined by the quantity term or article used with the noun:

  • Only the article a / an can be used with singular count nouns.
  • The terms each, every, any and one can only be used with singular count nouns.
  • The words these, those, many, both, several, few / fewer / fewest and the phrases a few, one of the, and a couple of can only be used with plural count nouns.
  • This and that can be used with either singular count nouns or non-count nouns.
  • Some, any, most, more, all, alot of, no, none of the can be used with plural count nouns or non-count nouns.
  • The article the is not a useful indicator since it can be used with both types of count nouns and non-count nouns.

TOEIC | Grammar: Count and Non-Count Nouns Previous   Up   Next   

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