English Articles with Uncountable Nouns

Overview

This unit covers articles with uncountable nouns.

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Uncountable nouns include concepts, materials, or objects that are generally not quantifiable. Some examples are: comprehension, wood, water, and sunshine. Uncountable nouns cannot be used with indefinite articles. For example, you cannot say, “A water is clear,” BUT you can use the definite article: “The water is clear.”

Examples:

The chair is made of wood. (not The chair is made of a wood.)
My understanding is that we are meeting at 12 pm. (not An understanding is…)

Uncountable nouns do not need an article if used in a general sense. For example, “Water is necessary for life.” Also, you cannot use a number in front of an uncountable noun, unless talking about units of the noun or inferring them:

I’ll have two bottles of water, please.
We would like three coffees to go.

In the first sentence, the units are bottles, and in the second, “cups” is implied or inferred and understood to be units.

Sometimes, an uncountable noun can be quantified to refer to types of the noun.

Examples:
I like the meats and cheeses they offer in their charcuterie board.
The various grasses that grow on the high plains are different from those in the South.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
Writing:
I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
Reading:
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
Listening:
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.