Some words can be both countable and uncountable depending on how they are used.
- Would you like a chocolate?
- Would you like some chocolate?
In a box of chocolates, the chocolates are countable and you can take one.
When you have a bar of chocolate the chocolate is uncountable and you can take some.
There are several other nouns that can be both countable and uncountable.
- Can I have a glass of water, please?
- There’s some broken glass on the pavement.
‘Glass’ is one. Many foodstuffs can be countable or uncountable. Think about the difference between ‘an ice cream’ and ‘some ice cream’ and ‘a coffee’ and ‘some coffee’
‘few/a few’ and ‘little/a little’
We use few and a few with countable nouns and we use little and a little with uncountable nouns.
- A few friends are coming round for dinner tonight.
- We’ve got a little time before our train leaves. Shall we go to a museum?
A few and a little both mean ‘some’. They have a positive meaning.
- I’ve got very few friends here. I feel really lonely.
- We’ve got very little time – hurry up or we’ll miss the train.
Few and little both mean ‘almost none’. They have a negative meaning.
Commonly confused words
- I’d like an information about train times please
- I’d like some information about train times please.
Although ‘information’ is countable in many languages, it is uncountable in English.
- Have you had any news from Pete?
- I haven’t brought much luggage with me.
- Can you give me some advice please?
As well as information, the following words are all uncountable: news, luggage, advice, furniture, weather, travel.