Correct Use of Nouns and Pronouns

Countable and uncountable nouns

Words like flower, book, tree, chair and pen are countable nouns because they refer to objects that can be counted. Countable nouns can have plural forms. They can also be used with numbers and the articles a/an.

There is a book on the table.
There are two books on the table.

She sat in a chair.
We need to buy some chairs.

Words like milk, water, knowledge and wisdom are uncountable nouns because they refer to objects or qualities that cannot be counted. Uncountable nouns do not normally have plural forms. They are also not used with the articles a/an.

Milk is rich in nutrients. (NOT A milk/milks …)
We subsist on rice. (NOT … a rice/rices.)
Water is essential for the existence of life.

Some common uncountable nouns are: furniture, advice, news, information, business, work, weather, traffic, scenery and bread. Note that many of these nouns are countable in several other languages and therefore ESL students often wrongly use them with articles and in the plural.

Wrong: He gave me an advice.
Right: He gave me a piece of advice. OR He gave me some advice.

We normally use a phrase like a piece of/ a bottle of to talk about a unit of an uncountable thing.

Examples are given below:

A bottle of water (NOT A water)
A piece of work (NOT A work)
A piece of/a bar of soap

Correct use of the possessive case

Possessive case should be used only with the following:

1.    Names of living beings

John’s house
My father’s spectacles

Possessive case is also used with personified objects:

The lion’s mane
Fortune’s favorite
Nature’s laws

2.    A few stereotyped phrases

Out of arm’s way
The ship’s crew
For conscience’ sake
For goodness’ sake
At one’s finger’s ends

3.    Nouns of space and time

Nouns of space and time denoting an amount of something can also be used with the possessive case.

In a year’s time
A day’s work

When two nouns in the possessive case refer to the same person or object, the apostrophe with s is added to the last only.

My brother John’s car (NOT My brother’s John’s car)
This is my uncle, the doctor’s clinic (NOT This is my uncle’s, the doctor’s clinic)