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Countable Noun

A countable noun is a noun that has both a singular and a plural form. The plural is normally made by the addition of '-s,' e.g. a horse, two horses. Nouns that do not have plural forms are called uncountable nouns or mass noun.

A countable noun, as its name suggests, is a noun that can be counted in discrete units. It can have either a singular or a plural form. For example, you can say that a person had a beer, or six beers. In this context, "beer" would be a countable noun. However, if you just said "some beer", then this would no longer be a countable noun (it would be an uncountable one).

Examples of countable nouns in sentences

For your reference, here is an example of the countable noun being used in a correct way

"According to the Declaration of Independence, there are certain truths about humanity that must be held as self-evident."

In this sentence, "truths" is a countable noun in the plural form. Click here to learn the differences between plural nouns and singular nouns. 

Now, here is an example of the countable noun being used incorrectly in a sentence. 

"According to the media spokesman, the allegations about his company contained nothing but lie." 

In this sentence, "lie" should be in the countable noun plural form "lies."

In case you are still a little confused about the nature of the countable noun, here are a couple rules that can help clarify your understanding. 

1. Think about the countable noun spatially. Can you think of the noun as a discrete object, or as a group of units lined up side by side? If you can, then it is probably a countable noun. If your image is more vague, then it is probably an uncountable noun

2. Several nouns can be used in both the countable noun and the uncountable noun forms. For example, "truth" is a countable noun when it refers to a specific truth or group of truths, but it is uncountable when it refers to truth as an abstract quality of things. The test outlined above should be able to help you tell the difference between the one and the other. 

Countable nouns - Background information 

The concept of the countable noun is somewhat related to the concept of the concrete noun. In both cases, the tangibility or discreteness of objects is an important distinction. However, whereas the concrete noun focuses on the body/mind distinction, the countable noun focuses more on the object/concept distinction. For example, an idea is not concrete; but in the phrase, "I have three ideas", the word idea is in fact a countable noun. On the other hand, coffee is clearly a concrete thing; but in the phrase "I had some coffee", coffee is not a countable noun, because it refers to the beverage in general and not to specific units of the beverage.

Conceptually, the main difference between a countable noun and an uncountable noun is that the uncountable noun is more abstract in the specific sense of being somewhat "fuzzier" in the mind and less amenable to direct representation. For example, if someone talks about "five truths", you can imagine this countable noun in the same way that might imagine five plates set on the table. On the other hand, is someone talks about "nothing but the truth", then this is less easily imaginable than truth in the countable noun form. Usually, the uncountable form would need to be represented by symbol or metaphor of some kind. 

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