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常見錯誤 Common mistakes: ‘so much things’ and ‘so many stuff’

常見錯誤 Common mistakes: ‘so much things’ and ‘so many stuff’

Posted by Grant Richardson, 28th November, 2015

A simple but often forgotten grammar rule:

In English, unlike in Chinese, some nouns can be counted (e.g. birds), while others cannot be counted (e.g. air).

Countable nouns have a singular form:

an idea; 1 idea

a thing; 1 thing

and a plural form:

2 ideas, 3 ideas…

2 things, 3 things…

In contrast, uncountable nouns normally do not have a plural form (though, there are exceptions; see below):

air

water

love

stuff

Countable nouns

For countable nouns, you can use “… many (+ plural form)”

Countable nouns (e.g. people) Examples
(negative) not many people There aren’t (so) many people today.
(question) how many people How many people are there?
(positive) so many people There were so many people yesterday.
(positive) a lot of people There were a lot of people yesterday.

Note that for positive sentences, we normally use a lot of or so many, but we normally don’t just use many.

Other quantifiers for plural nouns are:

plenty of, some, any, a few, several (formal), loads of (informal), stacks of (informal), heaps of (informal)

Uncountable nouns

For uncountable nouns, you can use “… much (+ plural form)”

Uncountable nouns (e.g. food or breakfast)  
(negative) not (so) much food I didn’t eat (so) much food this morning.
(question) how much food How much food did you eat last night?
(positive) so much food I ate so much food last night.
(positive) a lot of food I ate a lot of food last night.

Note that for positive sentences, we normally use a lot of or so much, but we normally don’t just use much.

Other quantifiers for uncountable nouns are:

plenty of, some, any, a little, loads of (informal), stacks of (informal), heaps of (informal)

How to count uncountable nouns

For every uncountable noun, there is normally a counter. For example:

I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast

Quiz: Can you match the following uncountable nouns with the correct counter?

1 celery A a bar of
2 chocolate B a bottle of
3 coffee C a bowl of
4 Coke D a can of
5 lettuce E a cup of
6 pizza F a head of
7 rice G a member of
8 sugar H a roll of
9 staff I a slice of
10 toilet paper J a stick of
11 water K a teaspoon of

Exceptions – uncountable nouns that don’t need a counter

Some nouns can be used as either uncountable or countable plural. In this case, they don’t need a counter word.

For example, wine can be uncountable (like water) or countable singular (meaning a glass of wine) or plural (meaning glasses of wine):

How much wine did you drink last night?

How many wines did you drink last night? (= How many glasses of wine did you drink?)

Oh, I just had one (wine).

Other nouns which can be used as either countable or uncountable:

beer vs beer(s) (bottle(s) or glasses of beer)

cheese vs cheeses (types of cheese)

fruit vs fruits (types of fruit)

chocolate vs chocolate(s) (in a box of assorted chocolates)

 

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