How can I know whether a word is countable or uncountable? I did not find that in Duden or the dict.cc dictionary. Is that same as in English? For example, in English, the word "information" is uncountable but I see in German "viele Informationen", that means "Information" in German is countable ("viele").

  • You can’t a priori. Words that are uncountable in English bight be countable in German and vice-versa.
    – Jan
    Dec 16, 2020 at 13:39
  • Countability in practice is a somewhat flexible notion. Soll ich eine Milch mitbringen? -- Ja, kauf bitte zwei! The jump from uncountable Milch to implicit measure plural is easy. Dec 16, 2020 at 14:18
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    Just a funny remark: The title of your question will probably confuse mathematicians among the readers because the linguistic meaning of the words completely differs from their mathematical meaning. See [here]( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countable_set) and here. In German the difference is clearly visible: countable = zählbar (ling.) / abzählbar (math.), uncountable = nicht zählbar or unzählbar (ling.) / überabzählbar (math.) .
    – Paul Frost
    Dec 16, 2020 at 16:40
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    @Paul Frost: Mathie here, and yes I was confused :) Interesting that you call verbs finite but sets endlich in German.
    – RDBury
    Dec 16, 2020 at 17:32
  • @jan : yes i know that. But in english it is pretty easy to find out in dictionaries. Dec 18, 2020 at 10:28

2 Answers 2


Duden will tell you, in the »Bedeutungen« section,

Grammatik: ohne Plural

But only in some cases (most of Glück, some of Zucker, none of Milch).

Towards the end of the article there is a separate »Grammatik« section which will nearly always list a plural because there is some special case in which a usually uncountable noun will have a plural:

Glück: die Glücke (Plural selten) – see meaning 3b, various lucky or happy events

Milch: (Fachsprache:) Milche[n] – different kinds of milk, e.g. mother's milk vs. cow milk

Zucker: (Sorten:) Zucker – different kinds of sugar

There might be uncountable nouns which are always uncountable in German and I assume these will be marked as such in the Duden.

An extreme case of plurallessness is Jura, which doesn’t even have an article, let alone a plural. But again, this is not explicitly stated.

Wiktionary covers fewer meanings of »Glück« than Duden, none of which have a plural, and is stated there

Worttrennung: Glück, kein Plural

  • Thanks ,you mean that any word that has no plural or plural same as the original word = uncountable? Dec 18, 2020 at 10:44
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    No, only words that have no plural are uncountable. Beware that depending on the meaning in the context, they may be countable or uncountable (see examples above). Plural can be the same as singular, e.g. »der Kiefer, die Kiefer« (“the jaw, the jaws”), so that’s no useful indicator for whether a word is (un-)countable. Dec 18, 2020 at 10:48
  • Thanks and what about words that duden tell nothing for exampel"Getreide" in bedeutung section said nothing about plural or ohne plural but it is uncountable word Dec 18, 2020 at 10:53
  • Duden gives you an entire table for singular and plural declensions of »Getreide«, so it clearly has a plural. What a plural of »Getreide« might mean is a different question. I’m assuming it means different kinds of it, such as wheat, rye, barley, ... Dec 18, 2020 at 10:56
  • So as conclusion how can we know that for using viel or viele in germany the noun is countable or not? Getreide has plural but is uncountable. Dec 18, 2020 at 11:05

What you are referring to, is the decision, whether something is a singularetantum. While in principle I see no difference to English, you have to look it up.

This property is a convention, which sometimes changes over times. The example Information is an interesting one, since it can be a unit (so you may just have little or much of it; one would measure that in bit) or considered countable indicating separate facts.

Verbrauch is another example; nobody would have used that in plural some decades ago, but would have used Verbrauchswerte (e. g. fuel consumption of a car in town and across the country environment). Unglücke made a similar transition, now refering to separate countable desasters and no longer restricts to the opposite of Glück. Arbeit also has meanings differing in respect to countability: the amount of work to do in your job is not countable, but (e.g. in school or output of artists) when representing a separate countable test or piece of art countability applies.

The linked page list these general suspects:

  • Abstract nouns: Friede, Glanz, Spott
  • substance names: Gold, Heu, Milch
  • nominalisations: das Laufen, Gemütlichkeit
  • category names: Getreide, Publikum, Obst
  • portionable stuff: Regen, Lärm, Nässe
  • uniques: Weltall, Mona Lisa, Parthenon
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    What do you think is a good source "to look it up"? OP says it is missing in his dictionaries. Is there any short definition worth quoting from the linked article? Because it goes quite deep into the topic, it seems to me. Dec 16, 2020 at 14:55
  • There is a difference between English and German here since some "plural-free" nouns (to avoid the Latin) require an article, while in English this doesn't happen (afaik). For example, compare "Wood is hard." -- Holz ist hart. "Space is vast." -- Der Weltraum ist riesig.
    – RDBury
    Dec 16, 2020 at 17:59
  • Good answer but where can i look it up to know the word is countable or uncountable? For example viel Arbeiten or Viele Arbeiten Dec 18, 2020 at 10:47

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