Learn how to use articles with countable and uncountable nouns in English.
The most important first step in choosing the correct article is to categorize the noun as count or noncount.
- A countable noun is a noun that can have a number in front of it: 1 teacher, 3 books, 38 trombones, 1,000,000 people.
- An uncountable noun is a noun that cannot have a number put in front of it: 1 water, 2 lucks, 10 airs, 21 oils, 39 informations.
Once you have correctly categorized the noun, the following “rules” apply:
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Articles with Uncountable Nouns
1. You cannot say a/an with an uncountable noun.
- water (NOT a water)
- weather (NOT a weather)
- music (NOT a music)
2. You cannot put a number in front of an uncountable noun. (You cannot make an uncountable noun plural.)
- a piece of news (NOT 1 news)
- two bottle of water (NOT 2 water)
- a grain of rice (NOT 1 rice)
3. You use an uncountable noun with no article if you mean that thing in general.
- I need help!
- I don’t eat cheese.
- Do you like music?
4. You use the with an uncountable noun when you are talking about a particular example of that thing.
- Thanks for the help you gave me yesterday.
- I didn’t eat the cheese. It was green!
- Did you like the music they played at the dance?
Articles with Countable and Uncountable Nouns | Image.
Articles with Countable Nouns
1.You can put a number in front of a countable noun. (You can make a countable noun plural.)
- two cats
- three pens
- five students
2.You can put both a/an and the in front of a countable noun.
- a book
- an apple
- the lions
3. You must put an article in front of a singular countable noun.
4. You use a plural countable noun with no article if you mean all or any of that thing.
- I don’t like dogs.
- Do they have children?
- I don’t need questions. Give me answers!
5. You usually use a/an with a countable noun the first time you say or write that noun.
- John has a dog and a cat. The dog is called Rover, and the cat is called Fluffy.
6. You use the with countable nouns when the second and subsequent times you use the noun or when the listener already knows what you are referring to (maybe because there is only one of that thing).
- Where’s the pencil I lent you yesterday?
- I think the cat belongs to the new neighbors.
- I dropped the mp3 player and it broke.
- Please shut the door!
7. You use an (not a) when the next word (adverb, adjective, noun) starts with a vowel sound.
Note | Articles with Countable and Uncountable Nouns
1.The above rules apply whether there is or there is not an adjective in front of the noun.
- I don’t eat German cheese.
- Can I borrow a red pencil, please?
- There’s an extremely large cat in the garden!
- I don’t like small, noisy children.
2. Some nouns can be either count or noncount, depending on the context and meaning:
- Do you have paper? I want to draw a picture. (noncount = a sheet of paper)
- Can you get me a paper when you’re at the shop? (count = a newspaper)
3. Uncountable nouns are often preceded by phrases such as: a lot of .. (luck), a piece of .. (cake), a bottle of .. (milk), a grain of .. (rice).
* Instead of an article, the noun can also be preceded by a determiner such as this, that, some, many or my, his, our, etc.