Difference between British and American Uncountable Nouns
Having done some research, it does seem to me that there is no significant difference between UK and US English regarding the usage of uncountable nouns.
You can find an extensive list with explanation and examples here:
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Thank you for your question!
British and American English differ in many ways and it is important to recognise/recognize these differences!
That being said, it is also important to point out that both are correct and that native speakers often use both forms of English, although it is better to try to stick with one – so if you use British English, try to use it all the time and the same with American English.
Uncountable nouns refer to things that cannot be separated or counted as they are seen as a whole or mass. Some examples are:
Materials and Substances:
water, wood, rice, air, sand, cheese, coffee
Weather or Energy Words:
thunder, rain, electricity, heat, sunshine
French, English, science, economics
Names for groups or collections of things:
furniture, equipment, luggage, fruit, food, rubbish
time, life, education, intelligence, information, democracy
We cannot use numbers with uncountable nouns and most are singular with no plurals. We do not normally use a/an with uncountable nouns, although there are some exceptions, for example:
- It is important for me to get a good education.
Although substances are usually uncountable they can sometimes be used as countable nouns also, for example:
- Coffee keeps me awake at night. (Uncountable)
- I’d like a coffee, please. (Countable)
Many nouns have both countable and uncountable uses, for example:
- The table is made of glass. (Uncountable)
- I ordered a glass of beer. (Countable)
Some nouns always have plural form but are uncountable as we cannot use numbers with them, for example:
- scissors, trousers, pyjamas, glasses, binoculars, shorts, pants.
There are some differences in usage between British and American English regarding uncountable nouns. For example, the names of illnesses are usually singular uncountable in English, including those ending in –s like measles.
The words for some minor ailments are countable, for example:
- a cold, a headache.
However, toothache, earache, stomach-ache and backache are usually uncountable in British English.
In American English, these words are generally countable if they refer to particular attacks of pain, for example:
- I’ve got toothache. (British English) I have a toothache. (American English)
The vegetable ‘lettuce’ can be used both as a countable and an uncountable noun in British English; however, it is used only as uncountable in American English and takes a quantifier to indicate quantity:
- I cooked a lettuce. (British English)
- I cooked a head of lettuce. (American English)
Although the word accommodation is an abstract uncountable noun in both British and American English, it is used as plural in American English for example:
- Cheap accommodation is hard to find in this city. (British English)
- Cheap accommodations are hard to find in this city. (American English)
I hope that this helped to clarify things for you! If you have any further doubts, don’t hesitate to ask us!
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