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UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

-      These nouns cannot be counted

-      Don’t take plural ending -s



How can we count them?

-       We add a countable word, usually so-called partitives (more on p.3-4)

a piece of, a slice of, a bottle of etc.

 

Mám pro tebe dvě informace. I have two pieces of information for you.

Odbavila jsem si tři zavazadla. I checked in three pieces of luggage.

Dostal dva úkoly. He got two pieces of homework.

Kup mi dva cukry. Buy two packets of sugar.

 

-       Uncountable nouns are normally used with singular forms and can’t be used with the indefinite article (a/an), or plural determiners (these/those)

 

What can be used with UN?

-       Much, little, a little, a bit (of), a great deal of, less, amount

-       Also with countable nouns: no, none, some, any, a lot (of), plenty (of), lots of, more, quantity


Uncountable nouns can also have a plural form!

-       They are called pluralia tantum

-       They take only verbs in the plural and plural determiners (these/those)

 

  • arms, clothes, pyjamas, pliers, jeans, shorts, trousers, scissors, goods, cattle, police, poultry

Examples:

Cheap clothes are sold everywhere, which endangers the environment.

The police have finally caught the arsonist.

These scissors are blunt.

These pyjamas are old. I need to buy new ones.

 

 

Uncountable nouns can be countable with different meaning



TASK:  Try to work out differences in meaning for these words

work x a work

paper x a paper

chocolate x a chocolate

iron x an iron

wine x wines

 

 

Can I say two coffees, many spices or four cheeses?

Yes. Some uncountable nouns can be used as countable words, but they usually refer to something specific rather than general. It is e.g. different flavours, kinds, or pieces.

 

Two coffees – in ordering in a restaurant, similarly: three wines, two teas

Many spices – when cooking, mentioning all different kinds, e.g. cinnamon, clove, cardamon, allspice

Four cheeses – emphasising kinds of cheese, e.g. Mozzarella, Edam, cheddar or Gorgonzola

 

Hesitate no more, consult with a dictionary

Unless you are sure, Cambridge Dictionary marks the difference with

 U – uncountable meaning     C - countable meaning

See for yourself the example from the above-mentioned dictionary. 



PARTITIVES – Here is a list of some other partitives

 

RATHER BASIC

a loaf of bread

a bar of chocolate

an item of clothing

a cup of tea

a piece of fruit

a clove of garlic

a piece of furniture

a lock of hair

a jar of honey

a sense of humour

a scoop of ice cream

a glass of juicer

a slice of meat

 a box of chocolate

a bottle of milk

an item of news

a piece of paper

a sign of respect

a bowl of rice

a pile of rubbish

a glass of rum

a pinch of salt

a minute of silence

a drop of water

a bunch of flowers / bananas

 

MORE ADVANCED

a pat of butter

a lump of coal

an act of kindness

a glimmer of hope

a pang of hunger

a touch of irony

a stroke of luck

a case of measles

a cloud of smoke

a pane of glass

a spoonful of sugar

a fall of snow

an act of vengeance

an outbreak of violence

a shot of vodka

a gust of win

a pearl of wisdom

a herd of antelope / cattle

a covey of quail (hejno křepelek)

 

 

 

 

EXERCISES:

Partitives

 

 

DETERMINERS & MODIFIERS

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