The Noun Phrase

The noun phrase is a group of words that ends with a noun. It can contain determiners (the, a, this, etc.), adjectives, adverbs, and nouns. It cannot begin with a preposition. Remember that both subjects and complements are generally noun phrases.


· Count and non-count nouns: A count noun is one that can be counted:

book- one book, two books, three books,...

person- one person, two persons,...


It is very important to know if a noun is count or non-count. Students often make mistakes with the following nouns. Be sure that you know the plurals of irregular count nouns. The following list contains some irregular count nouns that you should know.

person - people

foot - feet

child - children

mouse - mice

tooth - teeth


A non-count noun is one that cannot be counted:

milk- you can’t say: one milk, two milks,...


Typical uncountables are:

· Materials and substances: plastic, iron, wood, paper, water, air, coffee

· Abstract ideas: life, fun, freedom, progress, health, time

· Activities: work, travel, sleep, football, help, research

· The following words, which are uncountable in English but countable in many other languages: accommodation, advice, behavior, business, cash, equipment, furniture, health, homework, information, knowledge, luggage, money, permission, rubbish, scenery, traffic, weather, work, sand, news, measles, food, soap, mumps, economics, physics, meat, advertising*, mathematics, politics.


*Note: Although advertising is a non-count noun, advertisement is a count noun. If you wish to speak of one particular advertisement, you must use this word:

There are too many advertisements during television shows.


It is possible, however, to count some non-count nouns if the substance is placed in a countable container:

glass of milk- one glass of milk, two glasses of milk,...:

accommodationa place to live / stay
advicea piece of advice
breada loaf / slice / piece of bread, a bread roll
furniturea piece of furniture
informationa piece of information
luggagea piece of luggage, a suitcase, bag
moneya note / coin, a sum of money
newsa piece of news
traffica car / bus etc.
travela journey / trip
worka job, a piece of work

Some non-count nouns, such as food, meat, money, and sand, may be used as count nouns in order to indicate different types:

This is one of the foods that my doctor has forbidden me to eat. (indicates a particular type of food)

He studies meats. (for example, beef, pork, lamb, etc.)


Some words can be countable or uncountable with a change in meaning. The countable meaning is specific and the uncountable meaning is general.

a fish (the animal)some fish (a portion of food)
a business (a company)business (in general)
a noise (a specific noise)noise (in general)
a hair (a single piece)hair (all together)
a painting (one object)painting (the activity / hobby)
a work (a work of art)work (in general)
a loaf (a loaf of bread)some bread (in general)
a coffee (a cup of coffee)some coffee (the material)
a paper (a newspaper)some paper (the material)
a wood (a small forest)some wood (the material)
an iron (for pressing clothes)some iron (the material)
a glass (for drinking)some glass (the material)


The word time can be either countable or non-countable depending on the context. When it means an occasion, it is countable. When it means a number of hours, days, etc., it is non-countable:

We have spent too much time on this homework. (non-countable)

She has been late for class six times this semester. (count)


To decide if a noun that you are not sure of is countable or non-countable, decide if you can say: one___________or a_______. For example, you can say “one book” so it is a count noun. You cannot say “one money” so it is not a count noun. Also, of course, by the very nature of non-count nouns, a non-count noun can never be plural. Remember that, while some of the nouns in the list of non-count nouns appear to be plural because they end in -s, they are actually not plural.


Other problems:

· One group of nouns only has a plural form: clothes, contents, feelings, glasses (for your eyes), jeans, stairs, trousers:

My trousers are too tight.

The stairs are very steep.

· One group of nouns can be followed by either a singular or plural verb: army, audience, class, company, crowd, family, government, group, public, team:

The Government has / have decided to resign.

· The word “police” is followed by a plural verb:

The police are coming.


Some determiners can be used only with count or non-count nouns, while others can be used with either. Memorize the words in the following chart:

with count nounswith non-count nouns
a, the, some, anythe, some, any
this, that, these, thosethis, that
none, one, two, three,...none
many a lot of a large number of a great number of (a) few fewer ... than more thanmuch (usually in negatives or questions) a lot of a large amount of   (a) little less ... than more ... than

Exercise 3.2: Determiners

Choose the correct determiners in the following sentences.


1. There are _______ envelopes on my desk.

a) much

b) some

c) any

d) a little

2. There isn’t _________ money in my pocket.

a) no

b) some

c) any of

d) any

3. Have you got _______ good computer games?

a) any

b) any of

c) a lot

d) many of

4. Do you like Madonna? Have you got ________ her records?

a) some

b) every of

c) any

d) all

5. There isn’t _______ time before our flight leaves.

a) much

b) many

c) some

d) no

6. I’ve got _______ idea where Mike is.

a) none

b) none of

c) no

d) any

7. Do you know ______ people living in England?

a) much

b) many

c) much of

d) many of

8. You’ve had ____ interesting experiences.

a) any

b) a lot

c) much

d) a lot of

9. Would you like _____ more milk?

a) little

b) a little

c) few

d) a few

10. ____ my friends want to see the concert.

a) no

b) any of

c) none

d) none of