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)
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.