AEE 1236: Don’t Make These English Mistakes with Countable and Uncountable Nouns

When you speak another language and are busy trying to connect with others, do you realize that you make mistakes with grammar?

Do you struggle with certain grammar issues when you are speaking fast in English?

It’s easy to have this happen since there is so much to think about when speaking another language.

We’re going to look at how to balance proper grammar as you are talking fast in everyday conversations in English and a common mistake that happens with English learners.

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Here’s a question about this that is likely what you may have been thinking.

Hi Lindsay,

I believe that most of your listeners are advanced English learners. So am I–or at least I hope so! However lately I am struggling with keeping proper grammar when speaking fast.

Since my native language doesn’t have tenses or countable/non-countable, it is very hard for me to remember to use them correctly. I’m sure that I’m not the only one to have this problem.

Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you for what you do,

Megan from Taiwan

It’s Never About Perfection

We spend so much time focusing on Connection NOT Perfection, and sometimes it’s hard to remember this as you are speaking.

It’s understandable that when you are speaking English, you may be focusing on making the connection and grammar may get left behind.

Does Connection NOT Perfection mean we don’t care about grammar?

Not at all, but you don’t want grammar anxiety to get in the way of connecting with others and with fluency.

It’s very natural that as you are speaking in English more, sometimes the grammar isn’t quite as perfect.

Though it is natural, it’s good if you recognize this so that you don’t focus on one and lose the other.

Recognizing this indicates a more advanced English speaker, so that’s great!

The Grammar Aspect of This

In trying to find the fine line between having good conversations in English and using proper grammar, there is something important to keep in mind.

A big part of this is understanding and then properly using countable nouns.

The reason for this is that you will often hear this used incorrectly in conversation.

It’s a common mistake, and once you understand it and the difference then you will likely be aware and avoid this trap.

There’s a significant difference between countable and uncountable nouns, and you want to know what that is.

Simply put, countable nouns are things that can be counted!

Think about if you can pick something up–one of something or two of something or three of something.

An example of this is something like rice–a grain of rice is countable, but rice as a whole is not countable.

Water is not countable because it would go everywhere if you tried to hold it.

If however you had a cup or bottle of water, then that is countable.

Common ones to remember because they come up often in conversation incorrectly:

  • Furniture is correct, and not furnitures
  • Vocabulary is correct, and not vocabularies
  • Homework is correct, and not homeworks
  • Jewelry is correct, and not jewelries
  • Advice is correct, and not advices

These are great examples that hopefully help to demonstrate this common grammar mistake in everyday conversation in English.

How Can You Work Through This?

It’s terrible when you have that feeling or mindset of not being able to speak and use proper grammar in a conversation at the same time.

How can you be aware of this?

What can you do to keep this in mind and make it work in conversation?

Here are a few things that may help you in this aspect of conversation.

  1. Pay attention: Pretend you are a fly on the wall of your own conversations. You shouldn’t slow down, but just observe yourself. Really notice what you are saying, and where you may be struggling. What are you having trouble with? Sometimes taking a step back and really thinking about and listening to what you are saying can help you a lot.
  2. Ask a friend to help: Tell your friend to really listen to you and pay attention to the way you’re speaking. Ask for them to catch your grammar mistakes and tell you about them. Try to have a regular conversation for 10 minutes, but tell a friend to stop you when you make a mistake and don’t get offended by it. This is great practice and can really help you if you are open to them pointing things out.
  3. What do you often talk about? Spend your attention thinking about the topic rather than the grammar point. At the end of the day, make notes of the topics you discussed, and what grammar you may have used. This increases awareness, and it helps you to really notice how your conversations typically go.
  4. Breathe: Take a deep breath and don’t tense up. Act natural and then the conversation will follow. Don’t focus so much on proper grammar that you end up having a conversation that doesn’t flow properly.
  5. Think of the listener: Try to consider how can you make things easy for the listener. Are you telling a story? Do they need to know it is in the past? This can take the pressure off of YOU– it changes your mindset. Try to put yourself into the shoes of the listener, and it will help you in your conversations.

These steps can help you to ensure that your conversation is natural, but also works well grammatically speaking.

Takeaway

It can be tough to focus on Connection and try for perfect grammar at the same time.

Think of the reason for your conversation- is perfect grammar important now?

Choose a time when it is important, and then choose a time to be more relaxed.

Focus on topics and the grammar will follow, particularly now that you are aware of this.

Keep practicing, and you will get a feel for how this works and when natural conversation is the way to go.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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