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Nouns that can be countable or uncountable

A A potato or potato?

Some nouns can be either countable or uncountable. For example, a potato is a separate, individual thing, but potato cannot be counted.




I'm peeling the potatoes. Melanie baked a cake for David. Vicky was eating an apple. Someone threw a stone at the police. There's a hair on your shirt.


Would you like some potato? Have some cake/a piece of cake. Is there apple in this salad? The house is built of stone. I must brush my hair, not hairs

B A sport or sport?

Often the countable noun is specific, and the uncountable noun is more general.


Rugby is a sport. (= a particular sport) That's a nice painting over there. We heard a sudden noise outside. John Lennon had an interesting life.


Do you like sport? (= sport in general) Paul is good at painting. Constant noise can make you ill. Life is complicated sometimes.

C A paper or paper?

Some nouns can be countable or uncountable with different meanings.


/ bought a paper. (= a newspaper) I'll have a glass of orange juice, please. Have you got an iron? (for clothes) I switched all the lights on. I've been to France many times. The journey was a great experience. I run a small business. (= a company) We finally found a space in the car park.


/ need some paper to write on.

I bought a piece of glass for the window.

The bridge is made of iron.

There's more light by the window.

I can't stop. I haven t got time.

He has enough experience for the job.

I enjoy doing business. (= buying and selling)

There's no space for a piano in here.

There are hundreds of satellites out in space.

A coffee or coffee?

Words for drink are usually uncountable: Coffee is more expensive than tea.

But when we are ordering or offering drinks, we can say either a cup of coffee or a coffee.

Two coffees, please. (= two cups of coffee) Would you like a beer? (= a glass/bottle/can of beer)

Some nouns can be countable when we are talking about a particular kind or about different kinds. Chianti is an Italian wine. (= a kind of Italian wine) The use of plastics has greatly increased. (= the use of different kinds of plastic)

78 Exercises

1 A potato or potato? A sport or sport? (A-B)

Complete the conversations. Choose the correct form.

► Can I pick an apple/some apple from your tree? ~ Yes, of course.

1 I think sport/a sport is boring. ~ Me too. I hate it.

2 We ought to buy some potato/some potatoes. ~ OK, I'll get them.

3 I think painting/a painting is a fascinating hobby. ~ Well, you're certainly very good at it.

4 Did you hear noise/a noise in the middle of the night? ~ No, I don't think so.

5 Is there cheese/a cheese in this soup? ~ Yes, a little.

6 I had conversation/a conversation with Vicky last night. ~ Oh? What about?

7 Shall I put a chicken/some chicken in your sandwiches? ~ Yes, please.

8 Are you a pacifist? ~ Well, I don't believe in war/a war, so I suppose I am.

9 It isn't fair. ~ No, life/a life just isn't fair, I'm afraid.

10 What's the matter? ~ You've got some egg/some eggs on your shirt.

2 A paper or paper? (C)

Complete the conversations. Put in these nouns: business (x2), experience (x2), glass, iron, light, paper, space, time. Put a/an or some before each noun.

► Harriet: Did you manage to park in town?

Mike: It took me ages to find a space. And all I wanted was to buy some paper to wrap this present in.

1 Sarah: Are you busy tomorrow?

Mark: I'm meeting someone in the office. We've got………………………… to discuss.

2 Trevor: Do you think I need to take………………………. with me for my shirts?
Laura: Oh, surely the hotel will have one.

3 Vicky: I was going to have some juice, but I can't find

Rachel: If you turned .……………………… on, you might be able to see properly.

4 Claire: I've never met your brother.

Mark: Oh, he's usually very busy because he runs……………………… ... But he's been ill recently.

The doctor has ordered him to spend............................................ ……. resting.

5 Daniel: How did your interview go?

Emma: Well, I didn't get the job. I think they really wanted someone with………………………. of

the work, and that's what I haven't got. So it was a bit of a waste of time. And the train
coming back was two hours late. That's…………………………I don't want to repeat.

3 Countable or uncountable? (A-D)

Complete Claire's postcard to her sister. Choose the correct form.

The island is very peaceful. (►)Life/A life is good here. Everybody moves at a nice slow pace. People have (1) time/a time to stop and talk. It's (2) experience/an experience I won't forget for a long time. There aren't many shops, so I can't spend all my money, although I did buy (3) painting/a painting yesterday. Now I'm sitting on the beach reading (4) paper/a paper. The hotel breakfast is so enormous that I don't need to have lunch. I've just brought (5) orange/an orange with me to eat later. I've been trying all the different (6) fruit/fruits grown in this part of the world, and they're all delicious.

Date: 2014-12-22; view: 3122

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