Countable Nouns: What Are Countable Nouns? Definitions and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on August 15, 2023

Would you like to learn more about countable nouns? Perfect! You've come to the right place. This article will teach you everything you need to know about countable nouns and how to use them in your writing.

In short:

  • Countable nouns are things that can be counted. They contrast with non-countable nouns which can't be counted.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Countable Nouns?

First of all, what is a noun?

  • Quite simply, it's a naming word, clause, or phrase that you can use to refer to a person, place, or thing.

Easy enough, right?

Within the category of nouns, there are many different types. For example, a noun can be concrete or abstract, singular or plural, or even collective, and many more. Another way to categorize them is to sort them between countable to non-countable.

  • All nouns are either one or the other (and sometimes both, as we'll see later).

Many nouns can be counted, while many others can't. Countable nouns refer to something you can count. They're also known as 'count nouns.' They're different from non-countable nouns—also called mass nouns—which can't be counted.

The following examples illustrate the difference between the two:

I have three dogs.

Shall I bring wine?

'Dogs' is a countable noun, as evidenced by the number 'three' in front of it. 'Wine,' being a liquid, can't be counted.

The interesting thing about countable nouns is that even if something exists in infinite numbers, it is still countable. Take stars, for example; we don't know precisely how many stars there are in the universe, and perhaps there is an infinite number, but the word is still a countable noun.

I love laying down in a field and looking up at the stars

Countable Nouns Grammar

Using countable nouns accurately in your writing requires some knowledge of correct grammar. So let's get into that.

The first thing to know is that countable nouns can be both singular and plural. That goes without saying since the very fact you can count them means there can be one or more than one.

With singular nouns, we use a determiner of some kind before the noun.

That might be:

We must use at least one of these if the countable noun is singular. You don't have to use anything if it's plural, but you can use one of the last three determiners. You can never use an article with a plural noun, though.

I bought you a flowers.

I bought you some flowers. 

I bought you many flowers.

You can also use a number:

I bought you three flowers.

And you can also use a collective noun:

I bought you a bunch of flowers.

Beware, though, that if you use a collective noun, the noun phrase becomes singular:

The bunch of flowers he bought me were beautiful. 

The bunch of flowers he bought me was beautiful. 

Countable Noun Examples

As I mentioned earlier, countable nouns cover a wide variety of words. Let's take a look at some examples of countable nouns in some of the possible categories.


  • sister
  • mom
  • neighbor
  • teacher
  • Julia


  • zebra
  • spider
  • whale
  • mouse
  • chinchilla


  • mug
  • T-shirt
  • building
  • car
  • frame
  • oven


  • park
  • airport
  • office
  • home
  • bedroom

Imaginary things

  • elf
  • Jon Snow
  • Unicorn
  • monster
  • Loch Ness Monster
  • leprechaun

Body parts

  • finger
  • leg
  • head
  • eye
  • nail

Ideas and concepts

  • idea
  • revolution
  • goal
  • career
  • theory

Of course, we can't cover all the categories here because there are too many (and possibly a limitless amount), but you get the picture!

Can Nouns Be Both?

Some nouns are both countable and non-countable, and which of the two it is will depend on the context.

I'm going to show you some examples of nouns that can be both:

Let's grab a coffee.
Many farmers make their living from farming coffee.

In the first example, it's clear that 'coffee' is a countable noun because the speaker is suggesting they go and drink one. They might even have two or three. It's implied that they are referring to 'cups' of coffee.

In the second example, however, it's a non-countable noun because farmers don't farm just one or two coffees or any number of coffee. They farm the substance called 'coffee.'

Here are some more examples:

My shirt is crinkled but I don't have an iron.
The helmets are made from iron.

The author's just published a collection of his complete works.
That's great work, John.

You need to drink water to survive.
There's no way I'm going swimming; the water is too cold. 

If you're unsure, a good way to tell if a noun is countable or non-countable is to try placing a determiner like 'a' or 'the' in front of it or making it a plural noun. If you can, the noun is countable; if you can't, the noun is non-countable.

Examples of Countable Nouns

Let's take a look at some example sentences that use countable nouns:

My neighbor is helping me with my homework.

I find spiders to be such fascinating creatures.

My office is located in the tallest building in the city.

She thinks the world is all rainbows and unicorns.

Everybody's pointing the finger at you.

I've had a few ideas which I'd like to share with the group.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on countable nouns. I hope you found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Countable nouns name things that can be counted.
  • They contrast with non-countable nouns, which can't be counted. 
  • You can use articles with singular countable nouns and other kinds of determiners with plural countable nouns. 
  • Some alternate between countable and non-countable depending on the context.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like our Grammar Book, a free online database of grammar articles. Check it out!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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