John’s English Blog

I’m John, an English language teacher. Welcome to my blog.

Definite and indefinite articles

Articles, countable and uncountable nouns plus some tricky cases.


This is the sixth in a series of blog posts about articles. I recommend you read the previous blog posts in this series before you read this one. In the previous article we looked at using a in more detail. In this blog post we’ll look at countable and uncountable nouns in more detail and with lots of examples. We’ll finish with a few tricky cases.

uncountable nouns

Uncountable nouns do not have clear boundaries. Countable nouns have boundaries. The boundaries can be in space, in time, in variety, in amount, etc. You can only count things that have boundaries.

Many nouns can be countable and uncountable.

  • an object made from something
    Windows are made of glass.
    I like drinking from a glass.
  • a piece of something
    Good cloth is essential for a good suit.
    I need a cloth to wipe the table.
  • a type of something
    Metal is strong, but it can rust.
    Gold is a metal.
  • a quantity of something
    I love coffee.
    Would you like a coffee?
  • a product of something
    Hard work never hurt anyone.
    Romeo and Juliet is a famous work by Shakespeare.

These fall into various categories.


  • I ate a piece of fruit.
  • The apple is a delicious fruit.
  • Vegetarians don’t eat meat.
  • Rabbit is an unpopular meat in the UK.
  • Let them eat cake.
  • A birthday without a cake isn’t really a birthday.
  • Stinking Bishop is a very smelly cheese.
  • You can’t make fondue without cheese.
  • I got a box of chocolates for my birthday. Do you want a chocolate?
  • A good cake contains chocolate.
  • Scotland produces whisky.
  • Can I offer you a whiskey?
  • Tuna is a popular fish.
  • Do you eat fish?


  • Chicken is tasty.
  • A chicken can make a lot of noise.
  • Turkey is popular at Christmas.
  • A turkey is bigger than a duck.


  • Gold is a precious metal.
  • All that glitters is not gold.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss.
  • Castles are usually made of stone.
  • A glass is more pleasant that a plastic cup.
  • Greenhouses are made of glass.
  • They are cut from the same cloth.
  • In the kitchen, a sponge is better than a cloth.
  • I used to make water bombs from paper.
  • He wrote a paper on definite and indefinite articles.


  • Practising sport is a good way to keep fit.
  • I don’t understand why football is such a popular sport.
  • Hard work pays in the long run, but laziness pays now.
  • This blog is a work in progress.
  • There’s no rest for the wicked.
  • A change is as good as a rest.
  • Sleep is the best medicine.
  • I often have a sleep after lunch.
  • I’ll have to give it some thought.
  • I appreciate it. It was a kind thought.
  • Business is a good game — lots of competition and a minimum of rules. You keep score with money.” Nolan Bushnell.
  • Banking is a profitable business.
  • Containerization increased global trade.
  • The hot summer lead to a brisk trade in barbecues.
  • “A fair exchange is no robbery” means that exchanging two things of similar value is a reasonable and honest trade.
  • It was a passionate relationship full of drama.
  • Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth is a period drama.

abstract notions

  • Do you need help?
  • This blog post is a great help.
  • Language is a mysterious and beautiful thing.
  • Do you speak a foreign language?
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  • That one is a real beauty.
  • No act of kindness however small is ever wasted.
  • It was a kindness to let him sleep.
  • Success comes with hard work.
  • The project was a success.
  • Failure is success in progress.” A. Einstein
  • The project was a failure.
  • Truth and popular opinion are often different.
  • It was a hard truth to learn.
  • Experience is the best teacher.
  • It was an unforgettable experience.


  • Where have you been? I’ve been frantic with worry.
  • Money is often a worry.
  • It was a wild love that consumed him.
  • “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.” Mary Shelley.
  • I don’t have a fear of heights.
  • “While there is life, there is hope.” Cicero.
  • They don’t have a hope in hell of winning the cup this year.
  • He led a good but unremarkable life.
  • Pain is temporary.
  • The runner felt a pain in his side.

tricky cases

Some nouns are uncountable in English, when you might expect them to be countable. To make an uncountable noun countable we add a quantifier such as a piece of, a cup of, etc.

  • The customer service assistant give me a very useful piece of information.
  • Let me give you a piece of advice.
  • An item of news caught my attention.
  • I accidentally left a piece of luggage at the hotel.
  • The match was cancelled because of bad weather.
  • He took out a loaf of bread and slowly cut a slice of bread.
  • I love the sea, the mountains, the countryside. I just love nature.
  • We often blame the innocent for society’s problems.
  • A free press is essential for a civilized society.
  • Some people eat a slice of toast with Marmite for breakfast.
  • Please raise your glasses in a toast: to the bride and groom!


Back to the article

  1. There was noise all night from the party.
  2. quality is important.
  3. Pets often bring joy to their owners.
  4. In time we came to a understanding.
  5. Running a business is fun.
  6. Please calm down, that’s enough drama.
  7. Hedonists pursue pleasure.
  8. I’d like a coffee with milk and a slice of chocolate cake.
  9. I love a nature.
  10. The new assistant is a joy to work with.
  11. Did you hear noise?
  12. The symbol for iron is Fe.
  13. He was surprised to see a kangaroo in the road.
  14. The right to vote is an important freedom.
  15. On the plate were some slow roasted vegetables and a piece of kangaroo.
  16. Bobal from Utiel-Requena is a delicious Spanish wine.
  17. Would you like a glass of water?
  18. Cycling in London is an extreme sport.
  19. I’d like a room with a view.
  20. There’s a time and a place for everything.
  21. Is there enough room?
  22. Do you like wine?
  23. Her intelligence was a strength.
  24. understanding comes with time.
  25. power corrupts.
  26. Invisibility is a cool super power.
  27. There was a light on in the house.
  28. We demand freedom.
  29. It was a pleasure to meet you.
  30. Would you like to eat a piece of toast?
  31. a light shone through the curtains.
  32. business has been slow recently.
  33. I gave him a piece of advice advice.
  34. Hold still. There’s a hair on your collar.
  35. a strength is an important quality.
  36. time is on my side.” Rolling Stones.
  37. She had long golden hair.
  38. coffee contains caffeine.
  39. Is chess really a sport?
  40. Have you ever tried kangaroo?
  41. The countryside was devastated by a fire.
  42. Is a tomato a fruit?
  43. gossip can cause a lot of problems.
  44. He ate a piece offruit with his cheese.
  45. The message contained a information that was critical.
  46. I have an early memory of seeing Thomas the Tank Engine.
  47. memory isn’t very reliable.
  48. He’s so clumsy he’s a danger to himself.
  49. drama is a great way to express yourself.
  50. My shirt has wrinkles. Is there an iron?
  51. The brick hit the window and glass flew everywhere.
  52. “There’s a fire in my heart and you fan it.” Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  53. danger lurked around every corner.
  54. The old man was a gossip.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you have any comments, questions or corrections please write them below.

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