TOEFL Writing: Countable and Incalculable Nouns

When preparing for the written section of the TOEFL, remember that if minor errors are acceptable, then too many minor errors, especially along with a few grammatical problems, will negatively affect the overall score.

In particular, many students learning English as a foreign language have problems with countable and incalculable nouns, primarily because each language has its own. The best way to learn this aspect of grammar is to memorize the most common innumerable nouns.

 Quantifiable nouns are nouns that can be counted, meaning they can be singular or plural. With them, the article “a” or “an” is used. In the plural, the ending “s” is added to them.

 Innumerable nouns are nouns that cannot be counted individually. They do not use the indefinite article “a” or “an“. They don’t have a plural form. Usually they are preceded by the words “some” or “the“.

Here is a list of some common innumerable nouns: advice, air, accounting, behavior, coffee, heat, salt, copper, civics, calcium, clothing, film, equipment, bread, helium, singing, peace, pollution, violence, gasoline, water, responsibility, time

 Sometimes innumerable nouns are used phrases with which they take on a calculable form. For example:

        a piece of meat

·       a game of tennis

·       a cup of water

·       a clap of thunder

 Remember: we usually use “some” before an innumerable noun that has no clear boundaries (I drank some orange juice). It is not uncommon for international students to be confused by the word “people“, which does not have the form of a singular (North American people value education). However, when it is used in the sense of “a certain group of people”, it can be both in the singular and in the plural. For example:

 The Chinese are a people of Asia.

Various peoples have settled in Vancouver.

 Remember: the correct use of innumerable nouns will help you not only when writing, but also in the speaking section. Keep a list of the most common innumerable nouns by category handy – and repeat it from time to time.

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