Grammar | Confused by Nouns? 3 Things You Need to Know

Hi everyone! I’m Ms. Daphne, a teacher at Lil’ But Mighty. This is my first blog post and I hope that you will find it useful to understand more about countable and uncountable (mass) nouns, which many students have found confusing.

Grammar | Confused by Nouns? 3 Things You Need to Know

Huh? Why is luggage uncountable? Can’t you count the number of suitcases that you are carrying? And why do we say “she has long hair”, but “there are short black hairs on his legs”? Is hair countable or uncountable?

Like many students, these questions often clouded my mind when I was a young English learner. It didn’t make sense and I was often confused by the usage of nouns.

Grammar | Confused by Nouns? 3 Things You Need to Know

Photo courtesy of British Library from Unsplash

Just like what is mentioned in Sun Tzu’s quote, when you know what you are tackling well, you need not be afraid or anxious even if you have to confront it a hundred times.

While we cannot change the agonising fact that English grammar rules are confusing, we can deal with them by understanding nouns better. In the first part of the series on understanding nouns, we will look at:

  1. What are countable and uncountable (mass) nouns?
  2. Tricky uncountable nouns
  3. How mass nouns can be quantified (and be counted!)


1. Countable vs. Uncountable Nouns

Nouns, as we know, are words that describe a person, place, animal or thing.

Here are some examples:

  • Person: princess, cousin, driver, police

  • Place: library, toilet, zoo, kitchen,

  • Animal: fish, deer, mouse, leopard

  • Thing: stairs, table, rain, water, happiness, month

Among these, we can further categorise nouns into concrete nouns (material things that can be seen or touched e.g. fish and driver) and abstract nouns (things that cannot be seen or touched like ideas and feelings e.g. happiness and month).

What are countable and uncountable nouns then?

In simple terms, countable nouns refer to a person, place, animal and thing that can be counted and has a plural form.

For example:

Grammar | Confused by Nouns? 3 Things You Need to Know

On the other hand, uncountable (mass) nouns refer simply to a person, place, animal and thing that cannot be separated and counted individually. They are not used with a/an or other numbers, and their plural form does not exist. Uncountable nouns are also known as mass nouns.

For example:

Grammar | Confused by Nouns? 3 Things You Need to Know

2. Tricky Uncountable (Mass) Nouns

As mentioned earlier in this post, there are several confusing uncountable nouns, such as “luggage” and “equipment”. Some other tricky uncountable nouns are listed below.

Grammar | Confused by Nouns? 3 Things You Need to Know

Many English learners find it perplexing that these nouns (coloured in blue) are uncountable (mass) nouns because it seems possible to count them. You might have heard people using “all my luggages” and “I have so many equipments”. They would argue that they can count luggage and equipment. However, why are they considered uncountable mass nouns?

Nouns that are viewed as a Set

“Furniture”, “luggage” and “equipment” are mass nouns that are viewed as a set. To illustrate this point, let’s look at the table below:

Grammar | Confused by Nouns? 3 Things You Need to Know

As seen in the sentence examples, singular verbs are used with mass nouns. This is because, even though a mass noun is referring to more than 1 item, the items are taken to be a set.

3. Quantifying Mass Nouns

However, does it mean that I cannot count the number of items in the set? You can!

If you will like to specify many or exactly how many items are represented by the mass noun, you do so by adding ‘number + quantifier + of’ to the sentence. Mass nouns are singular subjects. By doing so, the ‘number + quantifier’ becomes the plural subject of the sentence. And when the subject is plural, a plural verb would be used in the sentence.

Grammar | Confused by Nouns? 3 Things You Need to Know

Exam Alert! Mass nouns often appear in Grammar, Grammar Cloze, Editing and Synthesis & Transformation sections of school tests, exams and the PSLE. Therefore, do take note when you find them in questions. Not only can the mass noun be tested alone [e.g. All my furniture IS ready to be shifted.], they can also appear with a quantity expression e.g. [e.g. Three pieces of my furniture ARE ready to be shifted.]. Therefore, be crystal clear about the subject. Understand when the mass noun is uncountable and when we are counting the exact pieces of the items in the set.

I hope your understanding of countable and uncountable nouns has improved with this post. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Confused by Nouns where I will be focusing on 3 aspects of plural nouns. Till then! ^-^/





Grammar Grandma Bites

Course Features:

1. Over 30 bite-size video lessons!

2. Unique strategies to tackle a wide range of grammar topics e.g. subject-verb agreement, neither/either type questions, collective nouns etc.

3. Targeted at P5 to P6 pupils (Or just anyone who wishes to have a good grasp of grammar rules!)

Have something to share? Drop us a comment below!

Leave a Reply

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

Other related posts

3 Quick but Effective Tips on Editing
Introducing: Mighty Monsterella!
Study Smart! | 3 Revision Tips for Primary School Students!
Announcing the Winner of our ‘Queen of Your Heart’ Mother’s Day Contest!
Situational Writing: Check for Accuracy in These 3 Things!
Comprehension | 6 Steps to Tackle “Support With Evidence” 2-Part Questions
Last Comprehension Question (3 Types) in your Primary School Examination Paper
3 Ways to Express Appreciation Using English (Father’s Day Special)
3 Good Study Habits for Primary School Students
Announcing the Winner of our ‘A Poem for Dad’ Father’s Day contest!
3 Writing Skills to Learn from Reading a Book!
“What if…?” 4 What-Ifs That Make Students Panic During a Stimulus-Based Conversation
3 Things to Look Out for When Faced with a Composition Topic!
Primary School Vocabulary: Confuse, Confused, Confusing? Which is Which?
3 Tips On How To Prepare For Primary School Oral | Stimulus-Based Conversation
3 Tips to Secure More Marks in Visual Text Comprehension (VTC)!
A Lil’ Passion Drives Learning!
A Lil’ Grit Goes A Long Way
Tackling 3 Important Question Types in Comprehension: True/False, Referencing and Sequencing
Visual Text Comprehension | 4 Types of Non-Linguistic Features You Need to Know
4 Examination Components That Test You on Irregular Verbs
Grammar | “I” vs “Me” (Subjective VS Objective Pronoun)
Vocabulary | 5 Common Homophone Mistakes
Composition Writing | 3 Ways to Write A Good Line of Dialogue
3 Ways to Build A Confident Child With Your Choice of Words!
Look Back in a Flash! 3 Ways to Craft Effective Flashbacks
Building Grammar Foundations: Start Young, Start Now
“E” is for Empathy | What Every Primary School Child Needs!
PSLE Oral SBC | 3 Things to Avoid When it Comes to Answering the 1st Question
4 Tips on Crafting Effective Dialogues in a Composition
Beauty World Centre Branch is moving to Bukit Timah Shopping Centre (right next door)!
PSLE Grammar | It’s Time! Stop Neglecting the Apostrophe – 2 Functions!
Primary School English | 3 Ways to Learn and Improve Your English at Home (or Just Anywhere!)
3 Netflix Animated Series to Watch
2 Ways to learning the English Language through Songs!
3 Board Games to Help You Brush Up Your English | Learning While You Are Having Fun!
Lil’ but Mighty School Workshops!
Usher in the new decade with Lil’ but Mighty!
Lower Primary | 2 Types of Comprehension Questions
PSLE Synthesis | STEP BY STEP ON HOW TO ACE THEM! (2019 Review)
Lil’ but Mighty Open House (2019)
Creative Writing & Compo | How to Punctuate Direct Speech
Composition Unpacking: See, Think, Wonder!
PSLE Grammar | 3 Tricky Subjects that are Commonly Tested
3 Common Suffixes to Tackle Vocabulary Questions and Editing
Top 3 Inaccurate Sentence Structures that You Hear in a Classroom
“Our Lil’ Red Dot!” (54th National Day Contest)
PSLE Stimulus-Based Conversation | Stop Doing These Three Things In Your Ending (Conclusion)

Like what you are reading?

Subscribe now to receive news and tips hot off the press!