Identifying Countable and Non-countable Nouns

Articles are a type of noun modifier that precedes a noun. There are two types of articles in English: the definite article the and the indefinite articles a, an, or some. The first step toward knowing how to use these articles before a noun is to be able to classify nouns as either countable or non-countable.

This tutorial (steps 1-5) covers the following concepts: First, you will learn how to identify countable and non-countable nouns. Next, you will learn the types of articles that precede these nouns. Then, you will learn that some countable nouns can also be non-countable and vice versa. Finally, you will learn to use the definite article the before a noun in a sentence or paragraph, when that noun has previously been identified for the reader. Now please look at the examples and exercise below:

Countable and Non-countable Nouns

Countable nouns are objects that come in discrete units and thus can be made plural. If the noun is singular, it usually requires the indefinite article a, an or some. If the noun is plural, it requires the article some or no article at all.

a banana. . .some bananas
a metabolite. . . metabolites

Non-countable nouns are objects that cannot be divided into discrete units and thus cannot be made plural. They require the indefinite article some, an expression of quantity (a piece of, a lot of), or no article before them.

milk. . . some milk
ethanol. . . some ethanol
ethanol. . . a liter of ethanol

Test Yourself!

To know how to use articles, it is necessary to be able to classify nouns in English. Singular countable nouns require an article. Plural countable nouns and all non-countable nouns do not require an article. The following list contains both countable and non-countable nouns. Can you classify each noun? Click on each one to find out its classification.

base pair

Return to Using Articles or go to Step 2: Countable Nouns as Non-countable.

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