Don't Count those Nouns! - Podcast Episode 26

 

Welcome to episode 26 of The English Sessions. Don’t count those nouns! I am your host and English teacher, Mike Butler. These podcasts can help you improve your English! Together, we will talk about grammar… pronunciation… structure... and have some fun too. Remember to visit my website, www.englishsessionswithmike.com to contact me for private lessons, and for more content.

You can also read the transcript of this audio on the website, as you listen to this episode.

Listen for these words today:
Guarantee - means ‘promise’ or ‘pledge’ or ‘swear to the fact’; to ‘give assurance’. There are many synonyms to this word. I will use it in a sentence. “Go to the amusement park. I guarantee that you will have a great time”. I GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT TIME. I promise, or, I have no doubt in my mind, that you will have a great time. Amusement parks or English learning. I can’t decide which one is more fun.

Conduct - There are several definitions of ‘conduct’ in English. Today, when I say ‘conduct’, I mean ‘to manage’, or ‘organize’ something. The detectives conducted the investigation.

Today we are talking about nouns. Many of you probably already know what a noun is. “Pizza” is a noun. “shirt” is a noun. People, places and things are nouns. That’s how I was taught in school.

Nouns are also things that we cannot see, or touch, right? For example, ‘sickness’, ‘sadness’, ‘happiness’. Many nouns to describe your condition end with those letters, N-E-S-S. Tiredness. Loneliness.

Today isn’t just about nouns though. No, I want to talk about the fact that in English there are some nouns that we count, and some nouns that we don’t count. What does this mean? Well, if you can count a noun, you can have more than 1. “Dog” is a countable noun. You can have more than one. 1 dog; 2 dogs; 3 dogs. I wish I had 100 dogs, because dogs are the greatest creatures on earth. Or, are you a cat person? No, I don’t mean that you are half-cat half-human; I mean that you prefer cats over dogs. Personally, I love cats too, but I don’t ever feel like they love me. Okay, so dogs, cats, cups, houses, cars, hats. You count all of these nouns.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

 

But, in English, there are plenty of nouns that we do not count. However, today, you will learn that many nouns that teachers may say you should not count, are sometimes counted. Why? Because language is always changing! We have plenty of informal uses of nouns, perhaps uses of a noun that are very specific to one type of business, or career; and then, there are nouns that are just being used in a clever way by a native English speaker. The speaker knows that the word isn’t typically counted, but they are trying to be cute, or clever.

When I am teaching, I don’t like to use the words ‘right’ or ‘wrong, ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’. Sometimes I will, when the problem is about grammar, and is something that a native English speaker would never say; or, if it is something that prevents understanding, because it is something that, again, a native English speaker would never say. For today’s topic, however, I promise you I will not use ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’. I really don’t like those words. BUT, I will talk about some words that learners often want to count, that native speakers often do not count.

Okay, Mike, just give us some examples of nouns you do not count!!! Okay okay okay. Let’s start with one that I said before. Happiness. This is a noun, right? Yes. It can be the object of a sentence. I love dogs. I love pizza. I love happiness. Also, I don’t hear people count happiness. 1 happiness, two happinesses? No, I don’t think so. So, ‘happiness’ is a noun that we do not count. This one is pretty obvious right? Because the noun is so abstract. Again, we can’t touch it, or see it, or hear it, so we don’t think to count it. Remember when I said that today I will not use ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’? I don’t use ‘happiness’ as a countable noun, typically. But, I GUARANTEE I can find someone who is using ‘happiness’ as a countable noun on the internet. Let’s see… here we are! https://www.leegrant.net/the-5-happinesses/ The 5 Happinesses, by Lee Grant. A photographer. ““One happiness scatters a thousand sorrows….””. Oh wow. That’s very poetic. - repeat- . That’s a clever way to use the word ‘happiness’.

Okay, let’s move on to a noun that you typically do not count that you are able to see, and touch. water. ‘Water’. Water is a liquid. We don’t typically count something that is a liquid. When you go to the beach, you see a lot of water. There is so much water. We do not say, ‘there are so many waters’. This one is pretty obvious to many learners too. Perhaps this word was used as the example of nouns you do not count in your English class. It’s the classic word to represent words you do not count. But, as you can imagine, there are definitely ways to use ‘water’ as a noun that you do count. In Modern English, you may hear this, “Hey Bill, can you buy me a water at the gas station?”. This means that Bill will buy a bottle of water. ‘Bottle’ is the countable noun, but things change, and now people often just say ‘a water’ instead of ‘a bottle of water’. Or, this example from Oxford, “Japanese coastal waters.”. The areas of the ocean under control of Japan.

Alright, you get the idea. There are many nouns in English that aren’t often counted, but still sometimes are counted in specific contexts. After the break, I will finally talk about the words that learners often think are countable, but are typically not, in English.

— BREAK —

Now, let’s talk about words that may be very commonly countable in your language, that are not in English. This can be helpful, because many English learners have nouns in their language that are counted, but the English translation of that word is typically not counted. You can pretty much count anything, if you try. But, it is important to know which nouns native speakers TYPICALLY count, and which nouns they typically don’t. Here is a list of 8 nouns that you may think are used as countable nouns in English. I will explain that they are NOT TYPICALLY countable, but THEN I will find an example on the internet of when it is a countable noun.

    #1. INFORMATION - Let’s start with ‘information’. Do native English speakers say “1 information; 2 informations”? Well, I don’t. I have always used this word as a non-count noun./ an uncountable noun. I say, “I have so much information I want to share with you. “. I DO NOT SAY: “I have so many informations I want to share with you” or “I have three informations in my presentation today.” no no no. No, I don’t say this. Now, remember, you can put a countable noun before the noun you don’t count, and then you can count it. For example, I would say, “I have 3 pieces of information in my presentation today”. OR, just, “I have three facts in my presentation today”.

Alright, here we go. Search “informations” on the internet. Ahhh, there we go. Remember when I said that maybe you’d find a use that is countable for a specific type of industry, or career field. “An information is a formal criminal charge which begins a criminal proceeding in the courts” There we go. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_(formal_criminal_charge) . Informations are to be drafted using Form 2. How boring. But there it is.

    #2. Advice. In episode 3 of the English Sessions, I tell Bruno that I gave him ‘advice’, not ‘advices’. So again, I can give so much advice. I don’t give advices. You often hear ‘piece of advice’. I have a piece of advice for you.

But let’s do it, INTERNET SEARCH…. ADVICES…. hmmm, this one’s hard. I can’t find any use of ‘advices’ that seem to be from native or fluent English speakers… hmm…. Okay, here is a page about the Quaker religious group. You know, I often find religious uses of these nouns when I search for uncommon uses. Okay, so, https://quaker.fandom.com/wiki/Advices. ADVISES - Advices are tidbits of advice compiled by a fairly large Quaker group. Huh? Okay, well, I don’t know anything about Quakers but there it is. By the way, I’m putting the links to all of this information on the website.

    #3. Research. Again, I do research. I conduct research. I do not say that I ‘conduct researches’. I don’t say this; Mike, the English teacher from the USA doesn’t say this. I can have ‘types’ of research… uhh, ‘mountains of research’. As in, I have to look up mountains of research to finish my master’s degree project.

However, I don’t have to look very hard far to find ‘researches’ because it’s right in the Oxford dictionary as the second definition. “(researches) acts or periods of investigation and study: his pathological researches were included in official reports. “ So, this word is the perfect example of how it’s not used this way in everyday English, but is obviously a pretty common use in specific industries or career fields.

    #4. Money. Money is typically not countable in English. “dollars” are countable, “pesos” are countable, “pounds” are countable, but ‘money’ typically isn’t. I have 100 dollars, not 100 moneys. BUT, sometimes it is used as a countable noun, to talk about sums of money. Oxford says this is a formal use, example ‘all the moneys paid into the account’. So be careful, but most of the time you want to say ‘all of the money’, not ‘so many moneys’.

    #5. NEWS - okay, “news” is a little different. “NEWS” looks like a plural, countable noun, so my learners often say, “Mike, I have a new”. Believe me, native speakers do not say this. Even if you have just a tiny little piece of information to share with me, it is your ‘news’. You have news. Mike, I have news. My wife is having a baby”. That’s your news.

    #6. Baggage/luggage. Again, these two words, which are similar in meaning, are not typically countable in English. Let’s go traveling. You are at the airport. The agent asks you, “how much luggage/baggage do you have?”. Well, if ‘luggage/baggage’ is not countable, then how do you answer that question with a quantity?! There are other words you can use. You don’t have 3 luggages, you have three bags/ or suitcases. Perhaps you have one carry-on. That’s a bag that you will keep with you, and bring to your seat, on the plane. A carry-on.

So, let’s try again. The airline agent asks, “Hello, how much luggage do you have?”. Here’s a good answer, “Hi. I have two bags to check in, and one carry on”.

    #7. WEATHER - What kind of weather are you having? There are many kinds of weather. Again, do not count it. Do not say, there are 3 weathers. BUT, let’s do an internet search… I bet we’ll find ‘weathers’. Let’s go. Hmm, well there’s a band called “Weathers”. There’s a band called “All the Weathers”. Hmmm…. alright. I give up. Your challenge is to go on the internet and find someone using the word ‘weather’ as a countable noun. Send me the link, mike@englishsessionswithmike.com

    #8. Furniture. Again, we can have pieces of furniture. I don’t typically hear ‘furnitures’. “HEY BILL, can you move the furniture in the living room please?” “Well, Mike, what pieces of furniture are you talking about? We have three different pieces of furniture”. “Okay I want you to move all of the furniture. So, #8, furniture, not countable. Let’s find ‘furnitures’ on the internet. hmmm… I mean, well… I see companies from other parts of the world who are selling ‘furnitures’. Okay, I believe this website  is selling furniture but was originally in French… well, that’s a perfect example, it’s the year 2020 and you are going to see people using ‘furnitures’ who want to sell you furniture on the internet, but then also you will English learning websites that tell you that you shouldn’t count ‘furniture’, that you shouldn’t say, “1 furniture, 2 furnitures”.

So again, this class today is about what is common for native speakers to say, what learners often say that is not common in English, and it’s also about how the English language is always changing. I could go on and on about this all day. I hope this list of 8 words is helpful though. I didn’t even talk about all the words in English that have very common countable uses AND very common uncountable uses, like ‘time’ and ‘work’. I guess we’ll save those for their own episodes in the future. Write in to the podcast with other examples of words that learners use in a countable way that are not typically used in that way by native speakers. Do you have any doubts about a specific word that you use? Do you have any doubts about anything I talked about today?


Write to me at mike@englishsessionswithmike.com . Leave a message for me on the website, www.englishsessionswithmike.com and I will play it on the podcast. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast so you won’t miss an episode. Visit www.englishsessionswithmike.com for more content. Please rate and review The English Sessions on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Find us on social media. Twitter @theEsessions; Instagram @englishsessionswithmike; Search for The English Sessions on Facebook. Until next time, this is Mike signing off. 

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