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Grammar lesson – uncountable nouns we make plural


A student asked me a very good question about uncountable nouns such as FOOD, OIL, and PROTEIN.

She asked why we sometimes make them plural by adding ‘s’.

To refresh your memory, countable nouns are things we can count…3 dogs, 2 years, 100 hours.

Uncountable nouns are things we cannot count such as milk, paint, or time.  We quantify/measure them instead -  a glass of milk, a can of paint, a lot of time.

There are times though that we can make uncountable nouns plural. This is usually done when talking about categories of the thing.  Types of food, types of oil…

For example, I would say:

“I usually fry fish in oil.”

However, I can also say:

“I prefer to fry fish in oils that are healthy, such as olive or vegetable.  (what kind of oils? healthy oils)

So, the next time you are confused by an uncountable noun with an ‘s’, check to see if it is a category that the person is speaking about.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2013 at 9:28 pm and is filed under Grammar. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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