Agreeing with countable and uncountable nouns
Nouns used on IELTS diagrams can be countable or uncountable. It is common for test-takers to incorrectly identify these nouns and wrongly adapt the grammar to suit. If this happens, large sections of an essay can contain agreement errors.
The obvious reason why countable nouns are so named is that they can be counted. In practice, this means it is possible to put a number directly before them and make the noun plural.
Common IELTS countable nouns are often groups of people:
immigrants - doctors - teachers - customers - buyers - tourists etc.
But of course, there are many countable nouns used that are not people:
sales - houses - restaurants - visits - applications - units etc.
When countable nouns are the head noun before a verb, they can be either singular or plural depending on whether there is only one or more than one.
Since 2012, five restaurants have made a profit but one (restaurant) has made a loss.
When a countable noun is preceded by each or every it becomes singular and the following verb will agree.
Every customer tends to buy gifts on their first visit to the museum.
The diagram shows the number of cars that were sold each month in 2012.
The obvious reason why uncountable (or non-count) nouns are so named is that they cannot be counted. In practice this means it is not possible to put a number directly before them or make the noun plural. Most uncountable nouns can only be counted by adding a unit of measurement beforehand. For example:
Three milks ✘ Three glasses of milk ✔︎ One electricity ✘ One kilo-volt of electricity ✔︎ Four informations ✘ One piece of information ✔︎ Ten aids ✘ Ten types of aid ✔︎
Some uncountable nouns must be changed into different nouns to be counted.
Five traffics ✘ Five vehicles ✔︎
And others have a different meaning when uncountable and countable.
The man’s weight ✔︎ (how heavy his body is) The man’s weights ✔︎ (his heavy exercise equipment for lifting)
For IELTS, common uncountable (non-count) nouns include:
electricity - gas - power - water - information - rubbish/garbage - equipment - traffic - aid - food - time - weight - energy etc.
Remember, uncountable nouns are always singular (as they cannot be counted alone so cannot be more than one).
Compare the sentences below.
…food is eaten by an average Chinese household in one week.
…water was consumed
In the following sentences, write the correct form of the verb in (brackets) to complete the sentences.
1. The average consumer in the USA (use) _____________ less gas per month than in the UK. 2. Consumers in the UK (use) ______________ more gas per month than those in the USA. 3. According to the table, every six people who regularly (eat) _____________ at fast food restaurants have experienced food poisoning. 4. At peak hours in 2015, traffic in all countries (be) ______________ higher than every other year. 5. The demand for water in southern Italy (be) _____________ rising yearly. 6. The data clearly (show) ______________ that all sources of foreign information (be) _______________ now restricted in China.
Errors in this type of grammar are also considered basic, so think carefully about each noun you use and which verb conjugation to use. When studying for IELTS pay attention to nouns you are less familiar with (expense/immigration/degradation/percentage/population etc.) and make sure you know the grammar that should be used with each.
|1||The average consumer in the USA uses less gas per month than in the UK.|
|2||Consumers in the UK use more gas per month than those in the USA.|
|3||According to the table, every six people who regularly eat at fast food restaurants have experienced food poisoning.|
|4||At peak hours in 2015, traffic in all countries was higher than every other year.|
|5||The demand for water in southern Italy is rising yearly.|