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Concourse 2

Making uncountable nouns countable

water coat luggage furniture
a drop of water two coats of varnish some items of luggage a piece of furniture
Look at the phrases under the picture and they will tell you what is in this lesson.
Here, we look at some ways to make uncountable nouns countable by adding a classifier like a drop, a coat, an item and a piece.
Look at these words and decide which ones are countable and which ones are uncountable.
To remind you, for example:
In English, milk is uncountable so we can't say
Please give me three milks or Can I have many milks?: that's WRONG.
and we must say Can I have some milk?
We can say
Can I have a glass of milk? and that is what this lesson is about.
write Task 1: Which of these words are countable (like cup or window) and which are uncountable (like sugar, water and milk)?
Click on the table when you have your list.

think Task 2: Now look carefully at the words in blue in the list and think.
Ask yourself: In my language can I make a plural of these words?
For example, can you say two informations or three furnitures?
You can't do that in English.

Now let's see how we make all the uncountable nouns countable by putting in
an XXXXXX of __________

a glass of milk a pint of milk a litre of milk etc.
a piece / item / bit of information  a grain of sand  a piece / item / bit of furniture 
a piece / item / bit of baggage  an act of kindness  a bit of happiness 
a bar of soap  a ball of string  a piece / bit of music 
a cloud of smoke  a game of soccer  a jar of marmalade 
a sheet / lump of ice  a bit of help  a lump of coal 

There are two types of words that we use to say a XXXXXX of something:

  1. General words: piece, item, bit:
    These words can go with many nouns like butter, furniture, music etc. but not all of them.  For other nouns we need:
  2. Special words to go with the type of thing we are talking about.  Like this:
    ball of + lines: string, wool etc.
    bar of things sold in square blocks: soap, chocolate etc.
    cloud of gases, chemicals etc.: dust, smoke, poison, fumes etc.
    coat of coverings: paint, varnish etc.
    drop of liquids: perfume, oil, paint, blood etc.
    flash of lights and colours: light, green etc.
    game of games and sports: chess, cricket, tennis etc.
    grain of small pieces of material: dust, salt, sand, sugar etc. 
    jar of things kept in glass containers: jam, cream, marmalade, pickles etc. 
    lump of irregularly shaped materials: coal, concrete, iron etc. 
    measures specific ones for length, square measures, liquids etc.: gallon, mile, hectare etc.
    portion of all types of food: vegetables, meat, fish etc.
    sheet of thin materials: glass, paper, ice etc.
    slice of certain types of food: cake, pizza, bread, sausage, banana etc. 

No, it's not very easy!
If you don't know the correct words the say a little ______________ and you will usually be right!

Task 3: Click here to do an exercise.