I think every noun can be uncountable. It's easy to prove with food:

Mother beaver teaches her daughter to cook a salad: Now, add some table to taste.

In this context the countable noun table became uncountable.

But I don't know whether every noun can be countable. That is, I cannot figure out how to make an uncountable noun countable. Is it possible?

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    First of all, beavers do not cook. Secondly, one makes a salad, one does not cook a salad. And "adding table" is senseless. In short, your description makes no sense at all. But the answer is no, not all nouns are both.
    – Lambie
    Jul 2, 2022 at 13:55
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    What do you mean by table? Obviously not the piece of furniture we eat our meals at... Jul 2, 2022 at 14:17
  • 'There are various chesses besides the original version.' / 'Their envies were obvious.' / 'Louis XV and Louis XVI furnitures are very different.' (Some dispute countification with some nouns, though Wiktionary lists all three of the plural forms here.) Countification is extremely productive. Jul 2, 2022 at 15:33
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    I suspect that there are very, very few nouns that cannot function as uncountable. If a noun can be a subject, then it can be the agent of a passive verb and that agent can be uncountable -> by [uncountable noun] "The waiters were allocated customers by table." All material nouns are both countable and uncountable.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 2, 2022 at 15:50
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    @Lambie they are beavers, so adding some table (i.e., wood) might be sensible. Maybe a better example would be "a bomb went off in the kitchen section of the store and there is table everywhere."
    – siride
    Jul 2, 2022 at 17:27

3 Answers 3


I'll assume that "countable" means that it can be premodified by a number (e.g., "two tables") and "uncountable" means that it can't.

In that case, there are several nouns that are only uncountable. For example, we would never say "five measles". (We might instead say "five cases of measles".) Other such nouns include "pants", "news", and "information".1

Whether there are nouns that are only countable is not quite as clear. One commenter gave this example: "A bomb went off in the kitchen section of the store, and there is table everywhere." The word "table" here seems to be used an uncountable sense. If you accept that, then I'm not sure that there is any noun that is only countable.

Note 1: I'm of course referring to common usage. I suppose that someone could write about "three informations", but that would certainly be unusual.


There are two general phenomena in English that deal with this.
One can massify count nouns and the other can countify mass nouns.

Both involve no morphology -- they simply use the one type of noun in a frame that demands the other.

Mass nouns can only be singular, so pluralization of an otherwise mass noun invokes the first type, which refers to kinds, types, or places of a single mass character. So does using a mass noun with a/an.

  • She used seven inks in this drawing.
  • She was looking for an ink to use in that one.
  • He sailed the seas for decades.
  • The Indian Ocean is not a sea of tranquillity.

Singular count nouns typically can't be used anarthrously (no articles), but mass nouns can. Massifying a count noun refers to whatever mass the count thing is made from.

  • When you buy a Hoozis, you get a lot of car for your money.
  • After the explosion in Chambers, there was lawyer all over the walls.
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    @Loviii It doesn’t matter. Treat it like a “brand of car”. Substitute “Toyota” or “Ford” or whatever if you like.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 2, 2022 at 18:37
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    Count nouns can't be used with no articles??
    – Lambie
    Jul 2, 2022 at 18:39
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    If mass nouns can only be singular (which certainly does sound like a true statement to me), then what are cattle and clothes and genitals? Aren't those plural mass nouns? They take plural verbs, but I don't know that you can directly use cardinal numbers with them absent some partitive circumlocution like three head of cattle, four sets of genitals. And I don’t think you can ever have five items of *clothes the way you can with the mass-noun clothing. Possibly these aren’t any special word class at all, just one-shot real-world quirks in leaky grammatical abstractions.
    – tchrist
    Jul 2, 2022 at 22:10
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    There are a few plural mass nouns like oats and clothes (*There's an oat on the floor). And then there's people and cattle. Since we can switch back and forth so easily, situations where we can't are really puzzling. Jul 2, 2022 at 22:48
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    Again, the [singular form / plural form {morphology}] vs [count {1/6 peanut/s} / noncount {cutlery; oats} vs [singular {the Church is} / plural {police are} agreement] vs [etic countability] {'water is', but 'furniture is' can refer to 3 chairs and 2 tables, total 5 items} distinctions are relevant. Jul 3, 2022 at 14:49

I looked up some examples of uncountable nouns to try to test the theory that all uncountable nouns can be made countable, by seeing if a forced pluralized version of an uncountable noun is ever used. There are many examples of uncountable nouns that can definitely be made countable and are used in plural forms in legitimate ways — for example, "art" is given as an example of an uncountable noun, but people do talk about "the arts" in many contexts.

There are also some uncountable nouns that can be forced and stretched into countable nouns if you give a really specific and esoteric situation, like "rice" can maybe debatably become "rices" if you were talking about several different kinds of rice, but like I said, this sort of thing is a stretch.

Then there are some uncountable nouns that refuse to play this game at all. "Luggage" does not become "luggages" in any circumstance. "Information" will not become "informations" no matter how many edge-case contexts you try. You can use these forms of these words, but they're going to sound goofy and comedic. You won't be able to use these forced plurals in serious contexts and continue to be taken seriously.

So, in conclusion, no, you cannot make ALL uncountable nouns into countable nouns. I'll leave it to someone else to test if the reverse is true, if all countable nouns can be made uncountable.

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    Even here (with information and luggage), Wiktionary, arguably the least reactionary of the major dictionaries, has the caveat [usually uncountable; plural {form adds s}] for both nouns. Jul 2, 2022 at 15:57
  • "The luggages of Samsonite, Gucci, and other manufacturers often vary greatly in quality." I'd prefer the singular (... luggage ... varies ...), but I suppose that some people could defend the plural. Jul 2, 2022 at 17:26
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    @Lambie No, luggages is fine. Just like we typically refer to a bunch of fish as “fish”, but use “fishes” when we want to emphasize “different types of fish”.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 2, 2022 at 18:39
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    This is the prescripitivist / descriptivist argument; in 50 years time, doubtless 90% of Anglophones will use 'luggages'. The trouble with trying to defend traditional usage is Who decides where correct usage begins and ends? 1600? 2010? When you left school? And what if some people went to Cowford instead of Wentbridge? Jul 2, 2022 at 18:43
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    @EdwinAshworth What is the English Academy's rule for pluralizing such words? Oh, that's right. :) Jul 2, 2022 at 18:48

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