Published 16th October 2018

countable nouns

When it’s time to teach your students about uncountable and countable nouns, you’re going to come across the use of few and little and much, many and some. Here’s the grammar explanation for uncountable and countable nouns.

When we are talking about a countable noun we use few. For example,

  • Can I have a few minutes to read this, please?
  • I am going to invite a few friends around for supper

When we are talking about uncountable nouns we use little. For example:

  • Can I have a little bit of chocolate, please?
  • We’ve got a little bit of time before the bus leaves. Shall we have a coffee?

All the above sentences are positive sentences with little and few meaning ‘some.’ When we use the words in a negative sentence then few and little mean ‘not many’ or ‘virtually none.’ Like:

  • There’s very few tomatoes left in the fridge, put it on the shopping list
  • There’s very little time left, hurry up or we’ll miss the start of the film.

Other words we use to express quantities include ‘a lot of’ which can be used with countable and uncountable nouns:

  • I have a lot of oranges here, I think I’ll make some juice
  • There are a lot of people waiting to buy tickets

These words are normally used when you want to use a positive sentence. If we are speaking negatively then we’ll use ‘much’ or ‘many.’

Much is used with uncountable nouns like money and many with countable nouns like potatoes.

  • I didn’t do very well at the market today. I haven’t made much money
  • I’ve got plenty of eggs, but not many potatoes

Some is also an expression we used to define quantity. It is used with an uncountable noun:

  • Can I have some coffee?
  • Pass me some bread, please