How to Use Commonly Confused Noncount Nouns Correctly

Commonly Confused Noncount Nouns

When you first start studying English, you usually spend some time learning the difference between count and noncount nouns.

Count nouns, like the word “book,” are countable, which means that I can literally count the number of them I have.

For example, “I have five books on my desk right now.”

Noncount nouns, like the word “water,” are not countable.

I can’t count water because it is a liquid, but I can count glasses of water: “I drink at least eight glasses of water every single day!”

(You can read more about the basic rules on count and noncount nouns in your favorite English textbook.)

If you are reading this, I am sure you clearly understand the difference between count and noncount nouns, but you probably still make mistakes with them.

There are many noncount nouns that are confusing because they are actually countable in other languages.

These confusing noncount nouns usually describe categories of objects or abstract concepts or ideas.

For instance, if you like to travel, you have definitely heard the word luggage before.

That’s a noncount noun describing a concept; we don’t say, “I am bringing two luggages on my trip.”

Instead, we say, “I’m bringing two bags on my trip” or “two suitcases.”

Here are some frequently used words that are actually noncount nouns:

  • mail
  • news
  • music
  • travel
  • traffic
  • scenery
  • laughter
  • help
  • advice
  • homework
  • work
  • baggage
  • luggage
  • equipment
  • furniture
  • money
  • cash
  • change
  • clothing
  • jewelry
  • makeup
  • garbage
  • trash
  • junk
  • stuff
  • grammar
  • vocabulary
  • slang
  • information
  • research
  • proof

Chances are you’ve had trouble with at least one of these words when speaking – that’s how confusing they are, even for advanced English learners!

Have you ever said, “Can I ask you for an advice?” or “Can you give me an advice?”

Advice is an abstract concept, and therefore it is not countable and can’t be used with the indefinite article (a/an).

Instead, you want to say, “Can I ask you for some advice?” or “Can you give me a piece of advice?”

As I mention in the infographic, you can combine noncount nouns with some or any, or with a count noun followed by “of.”

Here are some examples:

  • You can bring two pieces of luggage.
  • She got some exciting news today.
  • Can I give you a bit of advice?
  • He only owns 30 articles of clothing!
  • That’s a beautiful piece of music.
  • We don’t have any money.
  • I learned some new grammar.
  • They have a lot of homework.
  • There’s so much traffic now.

Now you understand how to use these commonly confused noncount nouns!

Using them correctly is a quick and easy way to improve your speech and sound more natural in English. 🙂

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn! Leave a comment below using one of these noncount nouns in a sentence. I’ll reply to let you know how you did!

Want to use grammar more naturally? Click here to explore my other resources on using grammar structures like a native speaker.

8 thoughts on “How to Use Commonly Confused Noncount Nouns Correctly”

    • I’m not exactly sure what you mean – I created the infographic and wrote the article from my own experience teaching English grammar for many years.

  1. `education` is a noncount noun. However, I wonder why the sentence below has `a` before education.
    They wanted their children to get a good education.

    • “Education” can be both a count and noncount noun. In the example you mentioned, “education” means “formal schooling at an institution of learning” and in this case it is countable. There are other abstract nouns that can be used both ways as well.

  2. The first thing is that you identify the noun and if you are not sure if it is countable or not, you must put it in one or more sentences so that you can explain it and so you can see if it is countable or not and more than anything you must be logical to learn to know that nouns are countable or not. You must see the grammar of countable nouns and non-countable nouns so that you know how to differentiate them and thus be easier to know which is which. you should still observe what they refer to countable and non-countable and know what the nouns mean.

    • Thanks for the summary. I totally agree that the quickest way to figure out if a noun is countable is to try using it in a sentence.


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