Special types of Countable and Uncountable Nouns

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Welcome to your Special Types of Countable and Uncountable Nouns lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• Nouns whose meanings change
Some uncountable nouns
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Nouns whose meanings change

Lots of nouns can be used as both countable and uncountable nouns. Usually this means that the meanings change:

Countable Uncountable

You’re going to the beach? Have a good time!

time = moment

I have to go, I haven’t got much time.”

time = minutes / seconds

They had lots of memorable experiences during their holiday.”

experiences = things that happened

They hired me because I had lots of experience.”

experience = knowledge through actions

The hotel was great, it had eight rooms!

rooms = bedrooms

There was enough room for eight couples.”

room = space

Waiter! There’s a hair in my soup!

hair = a single hair

I love your hair! Where did you get it done?

hair = all the hair on a head

Can I read your paper when you’ve finished?

paper = newspaper

The photocopier doesn’t have enough paper.”

paper = blank paper

Liquids (beer / coffee / water) are usually uncountable, if you use the countable version, you mean “a glass of…” or “a cup of…”:

“Can I have some beer please?” or “Can I have a beer please?”
(a beer = a glass of beer)

“Do you want some coffee?” or “Do you want a coffee?”
(a coffee = a cup of coffee)

Some uncountable nouns

Here are some nouns that are usually uncountable:

accomodation advice baggage behaviour
bread chaos damage furniture
information luck luggage news
permission progress scenery traffic
weather work

“A” and “an” cannot be used with these nouns:

You’ve made lots of progress in English.”
(not “a progress“)

Do you have any baggage with you, madam?
(not “…a baggage…”)

We also are unable to put an “s” at the end, as they are not usually plural:

“I don’t have permission to be here!”
(not “permissions“)

“Do you have accommodation for tonight?”
(not “accommodations“)

Despite ending in an “s”, “News” is uncountable, not plural:

“The news was great!”
(not “The news were great.“)

“Travel” (the noun) means traveling in general, not a trip or a journey:

“We spend a lot of money on travel.”
(travel in general)

“We had a great trip to France.”
(not “…a great travel“)

“They had a great journey around the island.”
(not “…a great travel...”)

Here are some more examples of nouns changing in their countable and uncountable forms:

Countable Uncountable

That was a good suggestion.”

That was some good advice.”

Those two chairs are wooden.

All our furniture is wooden.”

We took three bags.”

We took some luggage.”

It’s a beautiful day today.”

It‘s lovely weather today.”

What a beautiful view!

What beautiful scenery!

I’m looking for a job.”

I’m looking for some work.”