for English Language Learners (ELL) – those learning to speak English as a Second Language (ESL), or English as an Additional Language (EAL)
Remember: If you don’t know the meaning of a word, look it up in a dictionary or use Google Translate.
COUNTABLE and UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS
or COUNT and NON-COUNT nouns
Lesson 13 – Uncountable Nouns are Third Person Singular Subjects
In my many years of teaching English in the classroom, this is one of the most common mistakes made by English learners.
Master this, and your English will immediately sound better than many advanced learners!
This is very important!
Uncountable Nouns are singular. When you use an uncountable noun as the subject in a sentence, you need Subject/Verb agreement.
The wind are cold.
CORRECT: The wind is cold.
Wind is an uncountable noun. Because uncountable nouns are singular, use the same verb be as you would use for it. i.e., It is cold.
The coffee are good.
CORRECT: The coffee is good.
Liquids are uncountable. If we pour coffee onto the table, we cannot count it.
When the subject of your sentence is an uncountable noun, use a third person singular verb.
Do not use a or an before an uncountable noun. *
*EXCEPTION: You may hear native English speakers say “a coffee”, or “a water”, or “a tea”.
This is an expression that has become common because more and more people are going to fast food restaurants where speed is important. It is a shortcut, or a quicker way, of saying, “a cup of coffee”, or “a bottle of water”, or “a cup of tea”.
My grandmother would never have said “a coffee”! However, it has become an accepted change in spoken English – at least, here in Canada, where drive-through coffee is an important part of our current culture.
If you live in Canada, it is acceptable in everyday English to order “a coffee”, “a tea”, or “a water” at a restaurant. If someone invites you to grab a coffee with them, they are inviting you to meet with them, informally, for a non-alcoholic drink.