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Count Nouns 

Count nouns are nouns you can easily count. They can be modified by a number, and they have both singular and plural forms.


Students from a local college recruited forty participants for the study.

Count Nouns and Articles (the/a/an)

We can describe count nouns using articles like the, a, or an. These little descriptors tell us if a noun is singular, plural, specific, or non-specific!

Count Noun Number and Specificity Article Example
Non-specific singular 


I think I might buy a bike. [any bike]

Specific singular 


The hospital down the street is very modern. [a specific hospital]

Non-specific plural  no article! Textbooks are not cheap. [all textbooks in general]
Specific plural  the The substances listed in our proposal were all approved by Health Canada. [specific substances]

For a detailed breakdown of article use, check out this awesome resource from the University of Waterloo.

Non-Count Nouns

Non-Count nouns (also known as mass nouns) can't be modified by a number and are treated as a unit as opposed to something with parts. Non-count nouns cannot be pluralized and cannot be used with the articles a/an. 


The study contained information on how to support people experiencing pain.

Our company should consider alternatives to oil.

Many families had difficulty finding flour at the beginning of the pandemic.

Common Categories of Non-Count Nouns

Category  Non-Count Noun Examples Example Sentences 
Ideas Evidence, analysis, information, grammar, joy

The paper requires additional evidence and analysis.

You need to add some research to this report. 

Foods Flour, salt, milk, water, rice, quinoa

Many vegetarians are morally opposed to consuming meat.

The dinner comes with wine included. 

Languages French, English, Inuktitut There were two students in my class who were fluent in both Italian and Hindi.
Materials Iron, sand, wood, titanium The table is made of wood.
Activities/Gerunds Chess, golf, reading, dancing Sleeping is an important part of my routine.
Grouped things Trash, furniture, luggage, money The furniture in this room is Rococo. 
Weather Sleet, snow, rain Thunder shook the room. 

Non-Count Nouns and Articles (the/a/an)

Noun Type Article Examples
Non-specific Noncount Noun no article!

Integrity is essential for success. 

Time is an illusion. 

Congestion and traffic in Toronto is an ongoing problem.

Specific Noncount Noun the 

The software required for this course was already paid for by the college.

The homework assigned last week is due tomorrow.

Our client was impressed by the publicity she received for her new film release.

For a detailed breakdown of article use, check out this awesome resource from the University of Waterloo.

Denoting Quantity of Non-Count Nouns

You can indicate the quantity of many non-count nouns by pairing them with a partitive, like the words piece, cup or bag.


I have a new piece of information that will fascinate you.
This room needs a new piece of furniture.
The class collected five bags of trash.
My new lawnmower requires less than a litre of gas to run.

Nouns that can be Count or Non-Count

You can check if a noun is both count and non-count or if it has multiple meanings (some count and some non-count) by using a learner's dictionary


The word pain has both a count and non-count meaning.

  • Doctors and nurses need to understand that pain is an emotional experience (Treede, 2018). [pain as a general concept]
  • The patient said she felt a sharp pain in her knee and a duller pain in her ankle. [a specific instance of pain]

The word time has multiple meanings, and one of those meanings (the time at which something occurs) can be used as either a count or noncount noun. 

  • What time do you want to meet?
  • Maybe I should call back at a better time.

Memory, meaning the ability to remember things, can be used in both a countable and non-countable way. 

  • I have a horrible memory; I forgot to bring the salad. [memory as this individual's ability to recollect]
  • I have a horrible memory that keeps resurfacing. [a specific recollection]
  • I can't remember anything because I have horrible memory. [memory as an individual's ability to recollect]
  • These memories are so moving. [memories as discrete and separate recollections]
  • Memory is untrustworthy. [memory as the general concept of recollection]

If you are referring to types or discrete separate instances of a typically uncountable noun, you are using it in a countable sense. 

  • Disruptive behaviour can be a sign of distress. [behaviour as the general idea of actions]  
  • The award winner displayed behaviours including contentiousness, curiosity and creativity. [behaviours meaning discrete separate actions]



Treede, R. D. (2018). The International Association for the Study of Pain definition of pain: as valid in 2018 as in 1979, but in need of regularly updated footnotes. Pain Reports, 5;3(2):e643.