Count and noncount nouns vary from language to language. In some languages, there are no count nouns (e.g., Japanese). In addition, some nouns that are noncount in English may be countable in other languages (e.g., advice or information).
Please see the SMRTguide: Article Usage Flowchart for more information.
Count nouns can be separated into individual units and counted. They usually have both a singular and a plural form. Most English nouns are count nouns.
However, a few countable nouns only have a plural form in English. Here are a few examples:
These may be used with some sort of quantifier, or quantity word, to show how they are counted (e.g., a few goods, several goods, some goods).
Count nouns are usually made plural by adding –s or –es.
If the noun ends in –y, change the –y to –ies to make it plural if the –y is preceded by a consonant.
However, if a vowel proceeds the –y, add an –s to make it plural.
Generally, if the noun ends in –o, add –es to make it plural.
If the noun ends in –f or –fe, change the –f to a –v and add –es.
Some count nouns have irregular plural forms.
When unsure of the plural form, please consult the dictionary. APA follows Merriam-Webster's dictionary for spelling. See APA 7, Section 6.11 for spellings of technology terms. See the APA Dictionary of Psychology for spellings of psychological terms.
Important: Singular count nouns must have a word in the determiner slot, for example, an article, a demonstrative, or a possessive noun (i.e., a/an, the, this, or a possessive noun). Please see our page on article usage for more information.
Noncount (or uncountable) nouns exist as masses or abstract quantities that cannot be counted. They have no plural form. Although most English nouns are count nouns, noncount nouns frequently occur in academic writing.
Here are some common categories of noncount nouns. Like all things in English (and language in general), there may be exceptions.
An abstract concept: advice, happiness, health, education, research, knowledge, information, time, intelligence
A mass: work, equipment, homework, money, transportation, software, vocabulary
A disease: diabetes, measles, polio, influenza, malaria, hypothyroidism, arthritis
A subject of study: economics, physics, astronomy, biology, history, statistics
A language: Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, English
An activity (in the -ing form): swimming, dancing, reading, smoking, drinking, studying
A natural substance: air, ice, water, fire, wood, blood, hair, gold, silver
Food: milk, rice, coffee, bread, sugar, meat, water
A game: soccer, tennis, basketball, hockey, football, chess, checkers
Important: Noncount nouns do not use the indefinite articles a/an. They can, however, use the definite article the if what is being referred to is specific. They can also use no article if what is being referred to is general (generic) or nonspecific. Please see our page on article usage for more information.
Some nouns can be both count and noncount. When they change from a count to a noncount noun, the meaning changes slightly. In the noncount form, the noun refers to the whole idea or quantity. In the count form, the noun refers to a specific example or type. When the noun is countable, it can be used with the indefinite article a/an or it can be made plural.
Check the published literature in your field of study to determine whether specific nouns are used in a countable or an uncountable way. Sometimes, a noun that is generally countable becomes uncountable when used in a technical way.
Here are a couple of examples:
Quantity words are used to add information about the number or amount of the noun. Some quantity words can only be used with countable singular nouns, some can only be used with countable plural nouns, some can only be used with uncountable nouns, and some can be used with both plural countable nouns and with uncountable nouns.
With countable singular nouns (e.g., participant, interview, theory):
With countable plural nouns (e.g., studies, limitations, factors):
With uncountable nouns (e.g., research, evidence):
With countable plural nouns and with uncountable nouns (e.g., studies, limitations, factors, research, evidence):
* Note the difference between few/little (almost none) and a few/a little (some, but not many/much). Few/little tend to have a negative connotation. A few/a little tend to be more positive.