Welcome to the Grammar Gameshow! Test your knowledge in this crazy quiz! The presenter is a bit strange, the points don’t make sense and the prizes could use some improvement, but at least the grammar is correct!
Bill reigns supreme! This will be his fourth game in a row! He could very well become the next champion. This time he and his fellow contestant Yun will be tested on their knowledge of countable and uncountable nouns. That extremely complicated set of rules that tell us about the people things and places we are talking about! Can they win through? Why does Yun keep looking up her sleeve? Can Bill convince Will that something strange is going on? Find out all in this episode of the Grammar Gameshow!
Countable and uncountable nouns
Nouns in English can be divided into countable and uncountable. Countable nouns can be counted and are either singular or plural. Uncountable nouns cannot be counted, or at least are not usually. Countable nouns are used with words such as a lot, many and a few. Uncountable nouns are used with words such as a lot, much and a little.
Do you have a pen?
Is there much rice left?
I saw three dogs in the park.
I’ve still got a little water.
Both countable and uncountable
Some nouns, such as fish and chicken, can be both countable and uncountable. It depends on whether you are referring to the animal, which is countable, or the food, which is uncountable. These are not the only two nouns like this, nor do they always refer to food. Iron is another example, as a material it is uncountable, but as the domestic object used to press clothes, it is countable.
I’ve never liked chickens. They have crazy eyes.
It was a feast! I’d never seen so much chicken!
We caught three fish today.
The restaurant had leftovers so I grabbed as much fish as I could carry!
To make an uncountable noun into a countable one, we need to use a container. This is an expression which usually looks like: a… of… For example, a cup of, a bottle of, a loaf of. Once the uncountable noun is attached to a container, it can be counted.
I’d like three cups of coffee, please.
My father gave me one good piece of advice.
I’ve got a handful of sweets. Do you want some?
Some nouns, such as fish and fruit, have an irregular plural, fishes and fruits. We use them when we want to talk about different types of a thing in the same category.
I want some fruit. (uncountable – any fruit, I don’t care which. All fruit is the same to me.)
The shop sells many fruits. (plural – many different types of fruit e.g. apples, bananas and pears.)
There were three fish in the tank (plural – all the same)
There were three fishes in the tank. (plural- three different species of fish)
There are many other irregular nouns in English. Some nouns, such as species and fish, have the same singular and plural form – but the verb will change. Some nouns, such as news and mathematics, appear to be plural because of the ‘s’, but are actually uncountable and take a singular verb. Some nouns, such as police and staff, are known as collective nouns, are always plural and take a plural verb. Some collective nouns, such as family, team and government, can be singular or plural. It depends on whether the speaker considers them to be a group of people, using a plural verb and the pronoun they, or a single unit, using a singular verb and the pronoun it.
One fish is swimming into the river.
Three fish are swimming into the river.
This news is from the BBC.
The police are very effective in this town.
My family are happy to see you.
My family is happy to see you.
For more information, a quiz and other episodes, visit: https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/tgg/unit-1/session-28