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Contables e incontables

Countable and uncountable nouns


Nouns can be either countable or uncountable. Countable nouns (or count nouns) are those
that refer to something that can be counted. They have both singular and plural forms
(e.g. cat/cats; woman/women; country/countries). In the singular, they can be precededby a or an. Most
nouns come into this category.
A smaller number of nouns do not typically refer to things that can be counted and so they do not
regularly have a plural form: these are known as uncountable nouns (or mass nouns). Examples
include: rain, flour, earth, wine, or wood. Uncountable nouns can't be preceded by a or an.
Many abstract nouns are typically uncountable, e.g. happiness, truth, darkness, humour.
Some uncountable nouns can be used in the plural as well, depending on the meaning or context of the
word. Take a look at these sentences:
Would you like some coffee? uncountable because it's referring to the drink in general
He ordered a coffee. countable, because it's referring to a cup of coffee
uncountable, because it refers to the quality or state of
There's no truth in the rumours.
being true
The fundamental truths about human countable, because it's referring to facts or beliefs that
nature. are true

In the Oxford Dictionary of English and the New Oxford American Dictionary, nouns that
are chiefly uncountable are described as ‘mass nouns’. This type of noun entry may also include an
example sentence showing a countable use of the type described above. For example:
 beer noun [mass noun] an alcoholic drink made from yeast-fermented malt flavoured with hops: a pint
of beer | [count noun] he ordered a beer.
There are some words that should only be used with countable nouns and some that you should only
use with uncountable nouns. Here are the main examples:

with countable with uncountable


word examples
noun? noun?
few, fewer ✓ ✗ fewer students; few cars
little, less,
✗ ✓ less food; little time
least
several books; many
many, several ✓ ✗
changes
much ✗ ✓ much pleasure; much sleep
You often hear people using less with countable nouns (e.g. ‘there are less cars outside the school
gates’). Although it's a common mistake, it is still a mistake and you should try to avoid making it in
formal writing or speaking.

Back to nouns.
You may also be interested in:

Some, Any, Much, Many, A lot of, (A) Few, (A) Little
Jaime nos pregunta como usar some, any, a few, y a lot.
En cuanto a la duda planteada acerca de los cuantificadores, en primer lugar hemos de considerar que en inglés existen nombres
contables (que se pueden contar, es decir, que tienen plural, como “table”) y nombres incontables (nombres que carecen de plural
por se indefinidos, líquidos, gases, etc., como “money”, “water” o ”air”). Teniendo esto en cuenta, veamos los usos de “some”,
“any”, “much”, “many”, “a lot of”, “(a) little” y “(a) few”.

SOME:

a) Con nombres incontables, “some” se usa delante de ellos para indicar “algo de” (aunque en español pueda no usarse ningún
cuantificador en estos casos). Se utiliza en oraciones afirmativas.
Ej.:
I have some money. Tengo (algo de) dinero.
There is some water in the bottle. Hay (algo de) agua en la botella.

b) Con nombres contables (siempre en plural), “some” se usa delante de ellos para indicar “algunos/as” (aunque en español pueda no
usarse ningún cuantificador en estos casos). Se utiliza en oraciones afirmativas.
Ej.:
There are some pictures on the wall. Hay (algunos) cuadros en la pared.
She is playing with some friends. Ella está jugando con (algunas) amigas.

ANY:

a) Con nombres incontables, “any” se usa delante de ellos para indicar “nada de” (cuando la oración es negativa) o “algo de”
(cuando se usa en una pregunta), aunque en español pueda no usarse ningún cuantificador en estos casos.

Ej.:
I don’t have any money. No tengo (nada de) dinero.
There isn’t any water in the bottle. No hay (nada de) agua en la botella.
Do you have any money? ¿Tienes (algo de) dinero?
Is there any water in the bottle? ¿Hay (algo de) agua en la botella?
b) Con nombres contables “any” se usa delante de ellos para indicar “ningún/ninguna” (cuando la oración es negativa) o
“algunos/algunas” (cuando se usa en una pregunta), aunque en español pueda no usarse ningún cuantificador en estos casos.

Ej.:
There aren’t any pictures on the wall. No hay cuadros (ningún cuadro) en la pared.
Are there any chairs in the room? ¿Hay (algunas) sillas en la habitación?

¡Ojo!: Hay preguntas en las que se puede usar “some” en lugar de “any”, que normalmente se usan al pedir u ofrecer algo, cuando
se presume una respuesta afirmativa.

Ej.:
Do you want some coffee? ¿Quieres (algo de) café?

MUCH:
Se utiliza “much” con nombres incontables para indicar mucha cantidad. Se usa en oraciones negativas y preguntas.

Ej.:
I don’t have much money. No tengo mucho dinero.
Is there much water in the bottle? ¿Hay mucha agua en la botella?

MANY:

Se utiliza “many” con nombres contables para indicar mucha cantidad. Se usa en oraciones negativas y preguntas, aunque a veces
también se puede usar en oraciones afirmativas.

Ej.:
There aren’t many pictures on the wall. No hay muchos cuadros en la pared.
Are there many chairs in the room? ¿Hay muchas sillas en la habitación?

A LOT OF:

“A lot of” se usa tanto con nombres contables como incontables para indicar mucha cantidad. La diferencia con “much” y “many”
es que “a lot of” se utiliza en oraciones afirmativas.

Ej.:
There are a lot of pictures on the wall. Hay muchos cuadros en la pared.
I have a lot of money. Tengo mucho dinero.

(A) FEW:

“A few” y “few” se usan con nombres contables en plural para indicar poca cantidad. La diferencia entre ambas expresiones radica
en que “a few“ (unos pocos/unas pocas) implica que la cantidad es pequeña, pero suficiente, es decir, es una idea positiva,
mientras que “few“ (pocos/pocas) indica que la cantidad es pequeña e insuficiente, por lo que implica una idea negativa.

Ej.:
I have a few friends. Tengo unos pocos amigos. (son suficientes)
There are few books in the library. Hay pocos libros en la biblioteca. (son insuficientes)

(A) LITTLE:

“A little” y “little” se usan con nombres incontables para indicar poca cantidad. Al igual que en el caso anterior, la diferencia entre
ambas expresiones radica en que “a little“ (un poco/una poca) implica que la cantidad es pequeña, pero suficiente, es decir, es una
idea positiva, mientras que “little“ (poco/poca)indica que la cantidad es pequeña e insuficiente, por lo que implica una idea
negativa.

Ej.:
I have a little free time today. Hoy tengo un poco de tiempo libre. (es suficiente)
John has very little money. John tiene muy poco dinero. (es insuficiente)

‘Clothes is’ vs. ‘clothes are’ in English


by Jakub Marian

The word for “clothes” is singular in many languages, e.g. la ropa in Spanish or die Klei-
dung in German, and its plural in most contexts does not even make sense (you would vir-
tually never hear someone say las ropas or die Kleidungen). In English, however, the situa-
tion is completely reversed.

The word “clothes”, pronounced /kləʊðz/ or /kləʊz/ in the UK and /kloʊðz/ or /kloʊz/ in the
US, is only used in the plural:

His new clothes look good. (correct)


His new clothes looks good. (wrong)

The word “clothe” is not the singular of “clothes”, as one might think. It is a verb meaning
“to dress” or “provide clothing” and sounds quite formal and is not very common. For ex-
ample, a newspaper headline could read “Third-World parents are desperate to feed and
clothe their children”.

Also, don’t confuse “clothes” and “cloths”. A cloth (pronounced /klɒθ/ (UK), /klɔːθ/ (US))
is a piece of fabric. For example, you can wipe a table with a damp cloth.

Finally, there is “clothing”, a singular noun similar in meaning to “clothes”, but it is typi-
cally used to refer to a certain type of clothes, e.g. “protective clothing”, rather than a par-
ticular piece of clothing:

I wear these clothes every day. (correct)


I wear this clothing every day. (unnatural; overly formal)

When referring to a specific “number of clothes”, we would say “piece of clothing”, “arti-
cle of clothing”, or “item of clothing”, for example:

I bought a new piece of clothing. (correct)


I bought a new clothes. (wrong)
You will get a discount if you buy five or more items of clothing. (correct)
You will get a discount if you buy five or more clothes. (unnatural)

There is also a more traditional and formal word for a piece of clothing: a garment. It is not
so common in spoken language, but it still popular in print publications.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakesin
English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.