Some non-count nouns are challenging for English learners.

These nouns seem like they should be countable, often because they are countable in other languages.

Here are 17 tricky non-count nouns along with examples of their use.

advice

“First time home buyers often ask their parents for advice about how to handle the home-buying process.”

“You should talk to someone who has gone to Belize on vacation. I’m sure they’ll be able to give you a lot of great advice.”

Note that you can make advice countable with the word piece. (Example: “Can I give you a piece of advice about bringing a newborn baby home from the hospital?”)

bread

“If you’re on a low-carb diet, you can’t eat much bread.”

“Could you please pick up some bread on your way home from work?”

A few notes here:

  1. We can count rolls or buns, but not bread.
  2. We can make bread countable with the word loaf (plural = loaves) and slice.
This is a loaf of bread cut into slices. A roll is a small loaf of bread, usually for making a sandwich. A bun is a round roll (like the kind we use for hamburgers). (Photo by Bru-nO from Pixabay)

equipment

“You need a lot of equipment to climb Mount Everest.”

“I’d love to be a really good photographer, but I feel like I wouldn’t be able to afford all the expensive equipment.”

evidence

“Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence, there are still some crazy people who believe that the world is flat.”

“He’s definitely going to be convicted. There’s a ton of evidence against him.”

furniture

“How much furniture do you need to buy for the new house?”

“We’ve finished construction on the new office building, but none of the furniture has arrived yet.”

help

“Fortunately, I received a lot of help from my coworkers on this project.”

“The Americans would have never won the Revolutionary War without help from the French.”

homework

“In your country, do young children have to do a lot of homework?”

“Which one of your high school teachers gave you the most homework?”

Note that you can count assignments, essays, papers, and practice exercises, but not homework.

information

“What financial information were you able to find on the company?”

“Has NASA released any new information about the mission?”

Note that you can make information countable with the word piece. (Example: “I learned a valuable piece of information about one of our competitors.”)

jewelry

“Maria’s house was broken into last night. The thieves stole all of her jewelry.”

“Is gold jewelry a good investment? Do you think it will go up in value?”

luggage

“Airlines generally do a good job of keeping track of people’s luggage.”

“I think I’m bringing way too much luggage on this trip.”

Note that you can count suitcases and bags, but not luggage.

knowledge

“The partners at the law firm have a lot more legal knowledge than everyone else.”

“This book has really deepened my knowledge of American politics.”

mail

“When we go on vacation, we normally ask the neighbors to get our mail for us.”

“I’ve been living in this apartment for three years, but I still receive mail addressed to the former resident.”

Note that we can count emails but not mail.

proof

“You’ll need to provide proof of residency if you want to legally change your address.”

“In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on the state.”

research

“New research suggests that drinking coffee has some surprising health benefits.”

“They did a ton of market research and the product still failed.”

Note that you can count studies and experiments, but not research.

stuff

“You never realize how much stuff you really own until you move.”

“I have so much stuff to do today. There’s no way I’m going to leave the office before 7 p.m.”

Note that stuff is an informal word. For formal communication (particularly in writing), it’s usually better to use another word.

traffic

“Los Angeles if famous for having unbelievably bad traffic.”

“I spent most of the morning sitting in traffic. There was a bad accident on the highway.”

Note that you can count traffic jams, but not traffic.

work

“One of my coworkers recently quit, so everyone in my department has more work than we are used to.”

“If you have so much work to do, why don’t you finally hire a personal assistant?”

Note that you can count jobs, assignments, and tasks, but not work.