English Corner – Countable and Uncountable Nouns

It’s important to distinguish between countable and uncountable nouns in English because their usage is different in regard to both the determiners and the verbs. Countable and Uncountable nouns are grammatical topics that are likely to come up again and again in your studies so it’s important to know the main differences between them. If you are looking to improve your usage of numbers and to know how to use them to refer to person(s), place(s), and things(s), which are one or more in amount, then you will need to have a good grasp of countable and uncountable nouns.

Compared to many other grammar topics, countable and uncountable nouns are among the easiest to master but they are also the easiest ones to make careless mistakes about. By not paying enough attention to these basic rules, you will put yourself at risk of not referring to them correctly in either a direct or indirect manner. Please be sure to use the examples below to better your understanding and to also write out your own example sentences as well to get more practice. With enough effort, you’ll be able to tell the difference between the significance of one cow and five pencils. Most nouns are countable but there are a few exceptions which are not countable which you will find out more about in the rest of this ‘English Corner’ blog post.

Countable nouns are for things we can count using numbers. They have a singular and a plural form. The singular form can use the determiner “a” or “an”. If you want to ask about the quantity of a countable noun, you ask “How many _______?” combined with the plural countable noun.

Singular: One cat, one woman, one job, one store, one idea.

Plural: Two cats, three women, four jobs, five stores, six ideas.

She has three dogs. I own a house. I would like two books please. How many friends do you have?

Examples of Uncountable Nouns: tea, sugar, water, air, rice, knowledge, beauty

We cannot use a/an with these nouns. To express a quantity of an uncountable noun, use a word or expression like some, a lot of, much, a bit of, a great deal of, or else use an exact measurement like a cup of, a bag of, 1kg of, 1L of, a handful of, a pinch of, an hour of, a day of. If you want to ask about the quantity of an uncountable noun, you ask “How much?”

-There has been a lot of research into the causes of this disease.

-He gave me a great deal of advice before my interview.

-Can you give me some information about uncountable nouns?

-He did not have much sugar left.

-Measure 1 cup of water, 300g of flour, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

-How much rice do you want?

Exceptions to the Rule of Countable v. Uncountable

Some nouns are countable in other languages but uncountable in English. They must follow the rules for uncountable nouns.

The most common ones are:
accommodation, advice, baggage, behavior, bread, furniture, information, luggage, news, progress, traffic

  • I would like to give you some advice.
  • How much bread should I bring?
  • I didn’t make much progress today.
  • This looks like a lot of trouble to me.
  • We did an hour of work yesterday.

Be careful with the noun hair, which is normally uncountable in English, so it is not used in the plural form. However, It can be countable only when referring to certain examples such as the individual hairs on someone’s head.

Examples:

1) Did you wash your hair last night?

2) Your dad is getting some grey hairs on his beard.

As shown in the multiple amount of examples, Countable nouns can be singular or plural although they mostly are plural in usage. This is in contrast with uncountable nouns which are only singular in their nature and can never be plural. This is an important grammatical distinction which will help you to understand the main difference between these two types of nouns. Do your best to study these examples, create your own sentences, and know why countable nouns are singular and plural while uncountable nouns are only singular. Whether it’s one potato or a hundred potatoes, you have to be able to count both.

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English Corner – Introduction to Basic Parts of Speech

When you’re first starting out with the English language, it is necessary to have an overview of the basic parts of speech. Each of these basic parts of speech play a critical role in developing your understanding of English vocabulary and grammar. In previous blog posts, I have already covered some of these parts of speech in-depth but I thought that it would be prudent to give an overview of each one and how they relate to one another.

There are eight basic parts of speech in total: Noun, Pronoun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Prepositions, Conjunction, and Interjection. I would argue that the noun is the most commonly used part of speech while the interjection is the least commonly used one. Pronouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs are going to come up a lot in English with Prepositions and Conjunctions being less common but still important to know about.

1.) Noun: A word that describes a person, place, or thing. You can also name those things that can be seen or touched as well as those things that cannot be seen or touched. Nouns are present in 99% of sentences in the English language with very few exceptions which is why I have it as the #1 important part of speech to know. 

Examples
People: girls, boys, father
Places: library, garden, park
Things: trees, flowers, rocks
Ideas and actions: justice, liberty, democracy
Conditions and qualities: joy, illness, happiness

2.) Pronoun: A word that stands for nouns or for words that take the place of nouns. When it comes to pronouns, you’re referring to somebody or something indirectly whether it is he, she, or it. If you are referring to more than one person or thing, you would have to use the plural they, we, you in order to get your point across. Personal pronouns are also apart of this part of speech as they are also used regularly with him, her, etc. being very useful.

Examples:

Jonathan said he lost his bike yesterday.

Cynthia said that it is a very hot day today. 

Please let her know that we send our deepest thanks. 

3.) Verb: A word that expresses time while showing an action, a condition, or the fact that something exists. Any complete sentence will display or showcase a relevant action that will draw the reader’s attention to your writing. There are thousands of verbs in the English language but the most common are eat, drink, go, have, do, be, etc. 

Examples:

Writers write fictional stories in order to entertain their audience. 

Baseball players play the sport because they are passionate about it.

While millionaires have a lot of money to spend, they are not always happy about that.

4.) Adjective: A word that is used to describe a noun or give a noun or pronoun a specific meaning. The process of an adjective describing a word is modifying it to become more descriptive. Descriptive words help to give life to your sentence and make it stand out to the reader. Adjectives answer important questions about the details of a sentence such as:

-What kind?
– Which one?
– How many?
– How much?

Examples:

The newlywed couple lives in a beautiful house.

Thomas is a kind and caring teenager.

Martin’s family is very generous to the community.

5.) Adverb: A word that adds meaning to a sentence or modifies three different parts of speech such as a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. While not as common as the other parts of speech, adverbs are really useful when it comes to giving directions and providing needed details. One of the purposes of an adverb is to modify a verb and answer the question:

– Where? Fall below, Move aside, Step down
– When? Arrived today, Left early, Came late
– In what way? Happily ran, Will run abruptly
– To what extent? Partly understands, Dry completely, Fully accomplish

6.) Preposition: A word that relates to a noun or pronoun, which appears in relation to another part of speech in the sentence. These are usually small words but that carry a big impact in terms of forming the complete meaning of a sentence. It is vital to understand when and where different prepositions are used in order to not get confused about them. There are dozens of prepositions but I have listed below some of the most commonly used ones. Prepositions are one of the most important aspects of mastering English grammar.

While not its own part of speech, Compound Prepositions which are made up of more than one word are also important to memorize. Some examples include: According to, ahead of, because of, in place of, in regard to, prior to, out of. 

7.) Conjunction: A word that is used to connect other words or groups of words in a sentence. Conjunctions are essentially the glue that hold the sentences together with two related ideas being joined by words like and, because, for, or when, if, etc. Conjunctions usually come in the middle of a sentence but it is possible that they can come near the beginning of the sentence or towards the end as well. However, conjunction words rarely ever start the sentence or come at the very end of one. 

Examples

He is the chief of police and also is a part-time National Guardsman. 

This would be a good time for you to pull the lever. 

I would like that idea better if you backed up your claim with facts.

There are three main kinds of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, and subordinating conjunctions.

8.) Interjection: A word that expresses feeling or emotion; it functions independently of a sentence. Interjections are probably the most fun you can have in writing a sentence. You get to use fun, short words such as ah, ha, bravo, goodness, great, hurray, oh, oops, well, ugh, or whew which are all examples of words that express different feelings or emotions in the English language.

When it comes to where to place interjections within a sentence, there is a lot of flexibility about that. Usually, they come at the beginning or end of a sentence but it is up to the author entirely. Interjections are very important to use when writing dialogue for characters in a story or fictional novel. Interjections are the best part of speech to use in order to spice up your writing and make the reader engaged in the content. 

Examples:

Phew, I thought Mr. Jones was going to collect our Science homework today.”

Bravo! That performance by your orchestra was incredible tonight.”

Ugh…why did you go and lie to your parents? That was not a good idea.”

Overall, this is a good introduction to the eight parts of speech used in the English language. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see further posts that go more in depth about certain parts of speech that haven’t been covered yet such as adjectives and verbs. Until then, please be sure to use this blog post to improve your basic understanding of what parts of speech are and in which situations they are to be spoken or written. If you need to study the examples, please do so and I highly encourage readers to print out these notes to use in the future. Keep up the good work! 

English Corner – Possessive Nouns

Being able to discuss ownership in English over a person, place, or thing is quite key when it comes to developing your grammar proficiency. In order to do that, you must be able to understand, use, and master possessive nouns. The function of possessive nouns is to essentially demonstrate ownership or some similar relationship over something else. Plural nouns indicate more than one person, place or thing. Listed below is a key hint about how to create the possessive noun as well as the five key rules that you can utilize in order to figure out if there is ownership of an object or not.

When you’re unsure of how to find the ‘possessive noun’ you have to look for the Apostrophe! Possessive nouns typically include an apostrophe!

Examples:

  • Jennifer’s imagination ran wild as she pictured the horrible car accident.
  • The kitten’s toy is a stuffed mouse, which she plays with every day.

You should be able to think of the apostrophe mark as a ‘hook’ reaching out to take possession of the object or person involved. Without the little hook or hand grabbing onto the ‘s’ or the next word, the noun is in its’ plural form simply but not actually possessive of anything or anyone.

In addition to looking out for the apostrophe to indicate that the noun is possessive, there are five major grammar rules for possessive nouns to understand and use.

Grammar Rules for Possessive Nouns

There are five basic grammar rules that cover the majority of times where writers encounter possessive nouns.

Rule #1: Making singular nouns possessive

You must add an apostrophe (‘) + s to most singular nouns and to plural nouns that do not end in the letter -s.

You’ll use this rule the most, so pay particular attention to it. English has some words that are plural but do not add the letter ‘s’. Words like children, sheep, women and men are examples of some plural words that do not end with an ‘s.’ These plural words are treated as if they were singular words when making the noun possessive.

Examples:

  • Singular nouns: kitten’s toy, Joe’s car, MLB’s ruling
  • Plurals not ending in s: women’s dresses, sheep’s pasture, children’s toys

Rule #2: Making plural nouns possessive

Add an apostrophe only to plural nouns that already end in the letter -s. You don’t need to add an extra ‘s’ to plural nouns that already end with the letter ‘s’. You only need to put the apostrophe onto the end of the word to indicate that the plural noun is now a plural possessive noun as well.

Examples:

  • Companies’ workers
  • Horses’ stalls
  • Countries’ armies

Rule #3: Making hyphenated nouns and compound nouns plural

Compound words can be tricky for the average grammar student. However, you’ll need to add the apostrophe (‘) + ‘s’ to the end of the compound word or the last word in a hyphenated noun.

Examples:

  • My father-in-law’s recipe for meatloaf is my husband’s favorite.
  • The United States Post Office’s stamps are available for purchase in rolls or packets.

Rule #4: Indicating possession when two nouns are joined together

You may be writing about two people or two places, or two things that share possession of an object. If two nouns share ownership of the object or the person in question, indicate the possession of that noun only once, and on the second noun itself. Add the apostrophe (‘) + ‘s’ to the second noun only.

Examples:

  • Jack and Jill’s pail of water is a common nursery rhyme.
  • Abbot and Costello’s comedy skit “Who’s On First” is a classic comedy sketch.

Rule #5: Indicating possession when the two nouns are joined, yet ownership remains separate

This is the trickiest rule of them all, but luckily you’ll only need to use this rule infrequently. When two nouns indicate ownership, but the ownership is separate, each noun gets the apostrophe (‘) + ‘s’. The written examples below may help you to understand exactly what this rule means.

Examples:

  • Lucy’s and Ricky’s dressing rooms were painted pink and blue.

Explanation – (Each person owns his or her own dressing room, and they are different rooms).

  • President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s educations are outstanding.

Explanation – (Each government official owns his or her education, but they attained separate educations).

Possessive nouns is a tricky grammar topic but by understanding the need to use the apostrophe in the correct place and studying the rules surrounding its’ usage, you’ll be going in the right direction. Nouns can be singular, plural, compound, hyphenated, etc. so that is why you must be aware that the formation of the possessive will change depending upon how the noun is formed.

These rules, examples, and explanations for possessive nouns will help you develop your English grammar proficiency especially for this particular topic. However, you as the student must take the time to create your own sentences, study these examples and review this blog post in order to master the subject of possessive nouns.

English Corner – Demonstratives

When it comes to discussing one’s distance from objects, things, or other people, it’s necessary to master the grammatical concept of demonstratives. To describe the physical distance of something or someone to another is a key aspect of demonstratives. Depending if the speaker is near or far from the other object, person, place or thing, the demonstrative will change to reflect that change in closeness.

A key aspect of demonstratives to remember is that they can either be adverbs or pronouns for both singular and plural nouns. You can use demonstratives as well to describe both countable and uncountable nouns. In addition, when it comes to discussing actual events, you would use ‘near’ forms of the demonstrative to refer to the present while ‘far’ forms of the demonstrative would refer to the past.

For the demonstrative adverbs, the word ‘here’ refers to the subject who is close by and near to the object, thing, or person. For the opposite, the adverb ‘there’ refers to the subject that is far away from the object, thing, or person.

Here are some examples of demonstrative adverbs for near / far usage:

  • I am here at the police station.
  • They are here for the Science exam.
  • She was there for the graduation ceremony.
  • We will be there at 9 o’clock.

Based on these examples, it’s important to remember that the adverb ‘here’ for near situations should be used in the present tense whereas for far situations, ‘there’ is heavily used and often with either the past or future tenses.

As mentioned before, if you are near to an object, thing, or person and you’re looking to use a demonstrative pronoun, you’ll want to use the words of ‘this’ or ‘these’ depending upon if its’ with a singular, uncountable noun or with plural, countable nouns. The demonstrative ‘this’ or ‘that’ would be used with singular and uncountable nouns while ‘these’ or ‘those’ would be used with plural and countable nouns.

Here are some examples of how ‘this’ and ‘these’ would be used in sentences to describe objects, things, or people that are close in distance to the subject:

  • This cup is for my tea.
  • Is this your jacket?
  • Where have you been traveling to these days?
  • These bananas are delicious.
  • This is my friend, Dan.

As you can see from these examples, these objects or things are close to the subject rather than far away in distance. You can also see how the demonstrative ‘this’ is used for singular nouns while the pronoun ‘these’ are being used with plural nouns.

If the opposite occurs and you or another subject in your sentence is far away in distance from another, person, place or thing, you’re going to want to use the demonstratives ‘that’ or ‘those.’

Here are some examples of how ‘that’ and ‘those’ would be used in sentences to describe objects, things, or people that are far in distance to the subject:

  • What are those men doing over there?
  • That book in my shelf was really enjoyable.
  • That printer has a paper jam that needs to be fixed.
  • Those boys are heading off to play in the park.
  • Those tires are flat. They need air.

It’s clear from those examples above that those objects or things are considered to be far away from the subject of the sentence. You can also see how the demonstrative ‘that’ is used for singular nouns while the pronoun ‘those’ are being used with plural nouns.

When it comes to placing a demonstrative like ‘that’, ‘this’, ‘these’, ‘those’ in a sentence, you should remember that those pronouns can be placed before the noun or adjective that modifies the noun even if there is more than one noun in the same sentence.

Examples:

  • Those hungry people need to eat soon.
  • These tired citizens are waiting long hours in the unemployment line.

Another way to use the demonstrative is that it can be placed before any number by itself when the noun is understood within the context of a larger paragraph.

Examples:

  • These four need to be fixed.
  • That one gave me some trouble.

Sometimes, a demonstrative pronoun or adverb can be used by itself in a sentence without a noun even being present after the demonstrative. The noun can be understood from the context of a previous sentence or larger paragraph making the demonstrative clear the only necessary subject to have.

Examples:

  • This was not very fair to me.
  • That is really cool.
  • Those were really interesting.
  • What was the issue with these?

As with many other grammatical concepts in English, there are some rules and circumstances that have to be remembered in order to develop both spoken and written fluency. In order to become comfortable with demonstratives, study the examples, create sentences of your own, and re-read this article to remember the rules of usage.