Countability

From Teflpedia

Countability is a grammatical property of nouns, found in English and related languages.

Nouns that can be counted are called countable nouns; nouns that can't be counted are uncountable nouns. This concept is distinct from grammatical number; hence there are countable singulars, countable plurals, uncountable singulars and uncountable plurals.

In English, countability primarily affects whether a singular noun can take an indefinite article. Contrast "I want a cake" (countable, with an indefinite article) versus "I want cake" (uncountable, with a zero article). Note that the indefinite article can be replaced by other articles or determiners that don't mark countability - "I want the cake", "I want that cake", "I want my cake", etc may all be either countable or uncountable.


Uncountable plurals are rare in English, though the most common is "clothes".

Pedgagogy[edit]

In pedagogic grammar, sometimes countability is used as a rule to determine which forms are appropriate. For example, a rule is often given "Use 'there is' with uncountable nouns but 'there are' with countable nouns"; similar rules are often used for determiners "much/many" and "little/few". This "rule" is however, incorrect, though it may seem to work most of the time. A more accurate rule is that "there is" is used with singular nouns, and "there are" with plural nouns, regardless of countability.

On wikis[edit]

NB: An uncountable noun may have a subtly different meaning to its countable equivalent. Since all Teflpedia article titles are singular but articleless, it may be unclear to which concept a particular title refers.