Making uncountable words countable
A. You can make many uncountable nouns singular by adding, a bit of or a piece of. Similarly you can make such nouns plural with bits of pieces of. ( Bit is less formal than piece).
She bought an attractive old piece of furniture at the auction sale. How many pieces of luggage have you got with you?
I heard a really useful bit of information yesterday.
Chopin wrote some wonderful pieces of music.
Before you go to England I should give you two bits of advice ... He spends all his money buying new bits of computer equipment.
B. Although bit and piece can be used with the majority of uncountable nouns there are also a number of other words which can be used with specific uncountable nouns.
We have certainly had a good spell of summer weather this year. Did you hear that rumble of thunder?
Yes, I did. It came almost immediately after the flash of lightning. I heard a sharp clap of thunder, then a few rumbles in the distance. A sudden gust of wind turned my umbrella inside out.
There was a sudden shower of rain this morning.
Did you feel a spot of rain?
‘Can I have a loaf of bread, a slice of cake*, two bars of chocolate, a tube of toothpaste, two cartons of milk and three bars of soap?’
• Slice can also be used with toast, bread, meat and cheese.
Look at the ladybird on that blade of grass!
What’s happened? Look at that cloud of smoke hanging over the town! She blew little puffs of smoke out of her cigarette straight into my face. Let’s go out and get a breath of fresh air.
Put another lump of coal on the fire, please. ( lump can also be used with ‘sugar’)
I had an amazing stroke of luck this morning.
I’ve never seen him do a stroke of work. (only in negative sentences) I’ve never seen him in such a fit of temper before. The donkey is the basic means of transport on the island. Tights must be the most useful article/item of clothing ever invented. There was an interesting item of news about Syria on TV last night.
I) Match the words in the list on the left with their partner on the right. 1. a stroke lightning
2. a shower coal
3. an article grass
4. a lump news
5. a flash rain
6. a blade clothing
7. an item thunder
8. a rumble luck
II) Change the uncountable nouns to countable nouns in the following sentences by using either a bit/piece of or one of the more specific words listed in the left hand column.
Example: Could you buy me some bread, please? Could you buy me a loaf of bread, please?
1. My mother gave me some advice which I have always remembered.
2. Suddenly the wind almost blew him off his feet.
3. We had some terribly windy weather last winter.
4. Would you like some more toast?
5. He never does any work at all in the house.
6. Let’s go into the garden - I need some fresh air.
7. I can’t give you some important information about that.
8. We could see smoke hovering over the city from a long way away.
9. There is some interesting new equipment in that catalogue.
10. I need to get some furniture for my flat.
III] Use words from C on the left column to fit the clues for the puzzles below.
1. The government announced a state of ..................................... after the earthquake.
2. My granny wouldn’t be in such a bad state of ............................ ......... now if she hadn’t smoked all her life.
3. We fell in love with the house although it was in a dreadful state of .....................................
4. We are still in a state of ..................................... as to who has won the election.
5. Although this is supposed to be an affluent society, more people are living in a state of ..................................... here now than for the last 50 years.