I have that dastardly habit of correcting non-native English speakers. It just comes out. The correction, that is. Sometimes they thank me, sometimes they seem impervious to my help (interference) and sometimes they ask me to explain the rules.
When it comes to countable and uncountable nouns, I always rather dread having to explain the rules. I feel these two terms alone sound like some sort of double Dutch. Not only do we separate nouns into two camps – those that can be counted and those that can’t – we also have nouns that can both be counted and uncounted, I mean not counted. Oh, you want an example? Well, ‘truth’ would be a good example.
Truth – the quality is uncountable.
There is a lot of truth in what you say.
Truth – referring to facts or beliefs is countable.
Many truths came out during our discussion that night.
Usually, in order to sidestep having to explain the rules, I point out to the person I have so rudely interrupted the five most commonly counted uncountables – if you know what I mean.
Here they are, five uncountable nouns that I hear put into the plural – incorrectly – with an ‘s’; presented from the realm of our professional life to our social life.
However much you have uncovered, you have not being doing researches.
Singular: a piece of research
Plural: a lot of research, a huge amount of research,
Negative: not much research
I did a lot of research for this post!
My colleague just shared a very interesting piece of research with me.
Not much research has been done into this very innovative system.
You may well be right, but you do not have evidences to support your case.
Singular: a piece of evidence
Plural: a lot of evidence, a huge amount of evidence
Negative: not much evidence
He came to me with a startling piece of evidence.
There is a lot of evidence to support this hypothesis.
He did not have much evidence to prove his alibi.
You may have all the latest gear, but you don’t have many equipments.
Singular: a piece of equipment, a type of equipment
Plural: a lot of equipment, a huge amount of equipment
Negative: not much equipment
My gym is always quick to buy the latest piece of equipment.
Her kitchen is a joy to work in; she has a huge amount of equipment in there.
There is not much equipment in the new laboratory.
Also homework/schoolwork. You may be overworked but you never have many works.
Singular: a piece of work
Plural: a lot of work, a huge amount of work
Negative: not much work
The student handed in his piece of homework.
After my recent move, I have a lot of work to do at home.
He has very little work these days; he’s mainly out on the golf course!
There is not much work for him in the office these days.
Wine is uncountable, which is probably why it’s so difficult to count how many glasses you’ve had!
Singular: a glass of wine, a bottle of wine, a type of wine
Plural: a lot of wine, a vast quantity of wine
Negative: not much wine
Really, I only had a glass of wine or two at the party!
Last night, between us, we drank a vast quantity of wine.
There was not much wine left this morning.
As I said, I shy away from explaining the rules; that is best left to the grammarians.
Clear explanations on the OUP site
Explanations and a game to test your counting skills on the British Council site
Photo credit: Dinner Drinks via photopin (license)
Give me more!
Another post on counting in English is: One – Singularly Confusing