Count nouns, noncount nouns, and food


Most nouns in English fit into one of two categories: count nouns and noncount nouns (also called mass nouns).


Count nouns, noncount nouns, and food

Count nouns, noncount nouns, and food

Most nouns in English fit into one of two categories: count nouns and noncount nouns (also called mass nouns).

count noun names a thing that can be counted — it can follow or an and has a plural form as well as a singular form. For example, shoe is a singular count noun and shoes is its plural form. Here are some others: book/books, woman/women, person/people.

noncount noun refers to something that cannot be counted. Noncount nouns are normally not used after the words or an or after a number. They only have one form and are used with singular verb forms: for example, progress, information, dignity.

Let’s look at some English words for food to see how these different kinds of nouns work in a sentence.

Often words for food are noncount nouns:

Would you like some fish?
This corn isn’t fresh.
The rice is ready.
My beef was overcooked.

Other words for food can only be used as count nouns:

I’d like a sandwich.
Do you have any cookies?
Bring four bananas.
The carrots were chopped up.

Still other words for food can be both count and noncount nouns:

I grilled a steak for dinner. [count]
We had steak and potatoes for dinner. [noncount]

I made an apple pie. [count]
I love apple pie. [noncount]

In future postings we’ll discuss some other words for food, such as liquids (soup, water, wine), words that have plural forms that do not change from their singular forms (such as shrimp), and how nouns can be used like adjectives (apple pie, steak sauce).