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常見錯誤 Common mistakes: ‘so much things’ and ‘so many stuff’

常見錯誤 Common mistakes: ‘so much things’ and ‘so many stuff’

Posted by Grant Richardson, 3rd August, 2018

Corrections: ‘so many things’ and ‘so much stuff’

A simple but often forgotten grammar rule:
In English, unlike in Chinese, some nouns can be counted (e.g. birds), while others cannot be counted (e.g. air).

Countable nouns have a singular form and a plural form:

  • 1 idea, 2 ideas, 3 ideas
  • 1 thing2 things, 3 things

In contrast, uncountable nouns normally do not have a plural form (though, there are exceptions; see below):

  • air
  • water
  • love
  • stuff

Uncountable nouns

For uncountable nouns, you can use “… much (+ plural form)”, not “… many”

  • (negative) I didn’t eat (so) much food this morning.
  • (question) How much food did you eat last night?
  • (positive) I ate so much food last night.
  • (positive) I ate a lot of food last night.

Note that much is used for negatives or for questions.

For positive sentences, in spoken English, we normally use a lot of or so much…  E.g. So much food / A lot of food.

Other quantifiers for uncountable nouns are:

plenty of, some, any, a little, loads of (informal), stacks of (informal), heaps of (informal)

How do you count uncountable noun items?

For every uncountable noun, there is normally a counter. For example:

I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast

Quiz: Can you match the following uncountable nouns on the left with the correct counter on the right? (Answers: see below)

1celery / incense / butterAa bar of
2chocolate / soapBa bottle of
3coffee / hot chocolate / teaCa bowl of
4deodorant / soda / fly sprayDa can of
5lettuce / cabbageEa cup of
6pizza / pineapple / of the actionFa head of
7rice / porridge / soupGa member of
8sugar / salt / syrupHa roll of
9staff / the team / a groupIa piece of
10toilet paper / footageJa stick of
11water / wine / orange juiceKa teaspoon of
12software / information / technologyLa slice of

Exceptions – uncountable nouns that don’t always need a counter

Some nouns can be used as either uncountable or countable plural. That is, they don’t always need a counter word.

For example, wine can be:

  • uncountable (like water), e.g. “I drank too much/a lot of wine
  • uncountable (using a counter, e.g. a bottle of / a glass of), e.g. “I bought a bottle of wine
  • countable singular, e.g. “I had a wine” (meaning a glass of wine)
  • plural, e.g. “I had 3 wines” (meaning 3 glasses of wine)

Other nouns which can be used as either countable or uncountable:

  • beer vs beers (=glasses or bottles of beer)
  • cheese vs cheeses (=types of cheese)
  • fruit vs fruits (=types of fruit)
  • chocolate (=from a bar of chocolate) vs chocolates (=in a box of assorted chocolates)

ANSWERS

  1. J
  2. A
  3. E
  4. D
  5. F
  6. L
  7. C
  8. K
  9. G
  10. H
  11. B
  12. I

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