Countable Nouns

Correct Uses of Countable Nouns

Countable nouns are naming words with both singular and plural forms, and they name anything—or anyone— that can be counted.

Countable nouns are usually preceded by indefinite articles such as a (e.g., a bucket) or the (e.g., the church or by such possessives as my (e.g., my car) or our (e.g., our vacation), except where they operate like uncountable nouns in similar expression as at school.

Characteristics of Countable Noun

  1. Countable Nouns have Plural Form

    Countable nouns come in singular and plural forms. The plural form is formed by adding the suffix –s. However, some countable nouns have irregular plural forms:

    Regular FormIrregular Form
    SingularPlural FormSingularPlural Form
    bookbookschildchildren
    carcarsdatumdata
    tabletablesradiusradii
    pencilpencilsradixradices
  2. Countable Nouns Feature Numbers

    Because countable nouns can be counted, they can be preceded by numbers (zero, one, two, etc.)

    one booktwo books
    zero inputtwo inputs
    one childten children
    one tablefour tables
  1. Countable Nouns Cannot Stand Alone

    Countable nouns cannot stand alone, and are usually preceded by a determinerOpens in new window — that is, a demonstrativeOpens in new window, a quantifierOpens in new window, a possessiveOpens in new window, or an articleOpens in new window.

    • My pencil is on the table.
    • One leg of my chair is broken.
    • This child has a broken leg.
  2. Countable Nouns Can Stand Alone in the Plural

    A plural countable noun can stand alone, hence, does not require a determinerOpens in new window.

    Examples include the following:
    • Children love stories.
    • Chairs have legs.
    • Monkeys eat bananas.

Rules for Avoiding Errors With Countable Nouns

  1. Rule #1: Countable nouns cannot stand alone in the singular

    A singular countable noun must be preceded by an article (the, a, an) or another determiner such as a demonstrative (this, that), a possessive (my, your, his, her, our, their, one’s, Alice’s), or a quantifier (one, another, each, no, either, neither), as shown below:

    • Meal you served me yesterday made me sick to stomach. (wrong)
    • That meal you served me yesterday made me sick to my stomach. (correct)
    • Smarter of the two boys is brother of Gretchen. (wrong)
    • The smarter of the two boys is Gretchen’s brother.(correct)
  2. Rule #2

    Do not use a singular noun after a number greater than one, as illustrated in the following examples.

    • The youngest member of the club is twenty-one year old. (wrong)
    • The youngest member of the club is twenty-one years old. (correct)
    • He weighs more than two hundred pound. (wrong)
    • He weighs more than two hundred pounds. (correct)
  3. Rule III

    Do not use much, a little, less, or amount of with countable nouns.

    Observe the following examples:
    • Attendance is good, although there are less people than there were last year. (wrong)
    • Attendance is good, although there are fewer people than there were last year (correct)
    • The amount of books in the university library is staggering.(wrong)
    • The number of books in the university library is staggering. (correct)
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