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Learn to Write English Clearly and Correctly

Set 1 - Lesson 3  (Go to the Answer Key )


Lesson 3: To have, to want, to need.

I want, I have, and I need are among the first words a new speaker of English learns because they are so useful in dealing with day-to-day situations.  Using these words when you write English is a little more complicated.  Examples:

TO HAVE: I have a new car.  My brother has a new motorcycle.  My sister has a bicycle.  Many people have cars.  Last year I had a Ford.  Next year I will have a Buick.  We have had many cars during my life.

TO WANT: I want a new car.  My brother wants a new motorcycle.  My sister wants a bicycle.  Many people want new cars.  Last year I wanted a Dodge.  Next year I will want a Cadillac.  We have wanted a new car for a long time.

TO NEED: I need a new car.  My brother thinks he needs a new motorcycle.  My sister needs a new bicycle.  Many people need jobs to pay for their cars.  Last year I needed a new car.  Next year I will not need a new car.  We have needed many things.

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There are many kinds of things that people want or have or need.  Some of them can be counted, like shoes or cars or brothers.  Other things cannot be counted, like air or hope or beer.  The difference is important when you write English.

Words you can use with things that can be counted: a, an, the, this, that, these, those, one, two, three etc., many, several, few.

Words used with things that cannot be counted: some, much, little, any, none, a lot of, plenty of

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Important Note: Often, the difficult task is deciding which things can be counted and which things cannot be counted.  You can count apples, fingers, dogs, dollars.  You cannot count air, smoke, water.    But what about sand?  Sure, you can count sand grain by grain, but what you are counting is grains, not sand.  What about beer?  You can count kegs of beer, or bottles of beer, but you cannot count just beer.  The same is true of coffee, dirt, gravel, snow.  You can count particles of the substance (grains, flakes, pebbles, stones), or  containers of the substance ( cups, buckets, truckfuls, shovels full) , but you cannot count the substance itself.  Money is a good example.  Most people would say that you can count money, but think about it.  What are you really counting?  dollars, quarters, pesos, lira, rubles, sacks of, rolls of but not money itself.

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Countable     Not Countable
1 pig, 2 dollars, 3 cups of coffee, 4 spiders, 5 buckets of tar, 6 ladies, 7 cubic liters of helium, 8 square feet of carpet, 9 policemen, 10 pennies, many people, a few good men, several rabbits, a bear, an ostrich, the bucket, this car, these cars, that truck, those trucks     some freedom, no air, a lot of cash, a little hope, much dirt, a bunch of trouble, no sense, a little sand, some ammunition

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The word Cattle is a special case.  The word itself stands for more than one animal, but you do not count cattle - you count head of cattle, or you count cows or steers or calves.  You can have 20 head of cattle, some cattle, a bunch of cattle or 20 steers, but you cannot have 20 cattle.


1. Do you want more cereal? 2. Henry wants a new baby brother.
3. We want seventeen dollars for washing and waxing the car. 4. John wanted four tickets to the concert.
5. The Smith family has been wanting a new car for years. 6. Mary has wanted her own apartment ever since she started working.
7. I need more ideas for writing these lessons. 8. All of you students need to bring  a note from a parent before going on a field trip.
9. Are you needing any help, Mrs. Murray? 10. Jim has needed a haircut for several weeks.
11. Donna has needed a new bicycle for a long time. 12. Will you need me tomorrow to help in the store?
13. Do you have any change to spare? 14. Martin has many books on his bedroom shelf.
15. We are having a party next Saturday. 16. Mr. Jordan has had several accidents in his car.
17. Thomas said to the host of the party, "I have had a good time this evening." 18. I had eighteen yellow roses in my garden until the frost killed them.

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Exercise A: In the spaces below, write an amount or quantity word that fits.  Look at the examples above if you get stuck.

1. __________________ balloons 2. ____________________ fuel oil
3. __________________ toothpick 4. ______________________ Kool-ade
5. __________________ trucks 6. ______________________ pickles
7. ____________________gravel 8. ______________________ dollars
9. ___________________ money 10. ______________________ milk

Exercise B: In the spaces after the amount and quantity words below, write the names of things or substances.

1. two pints of __________________________ 2. fifteen __________________________
3. a truck full of __________________________ 4. 3 drops of _________________________
5. several ____________________________ 6. a cubic foot of _________________________
7. the ____________________________ 8. an _______________________________
9. much ________________________________ 10. a few _____________________________

 Exercise C: Draw a line through the words that are not correct.

1. The driver needed ten (gasolines) (gallons of gasoline) for his fuel tank.

2. The hungry crow wanted some (corn) (corns) from the corn field.

3. My car had (several) (much) flat tires last summer.

4. Martha has three (waters) (glasses of water) with every meal.

5. I like to have (many) (a lot of) (much) crackers with my soup.

6. The workers need 13 (amounts) (buckets) (grains) of sand to make the concrete.

7. We always leave (much) (many) (several) (a lot of) dollars as a tip.

8. There (are not many times) (is not much time) before the show has to begin.

9. Only (a few) (some) (many) (several) of us want to join the army.

10. Twenty (cattles) (cattle) (head of cattle) wanted to break through the fence.

Bonus Exercise: Find an English-language newspaper or magazine. Locate any article or story and underline all the things that can be counted, along with the words that point out countable words.


Examination: Using words or phrases from the following list, fill in the blanks in the following six sentences.  You may use some words more than once and other words you may not use at all.

Amount or Quantity Words Things or Substances
bottles, quarts, some, a drop, 33, several, 

those, a, five, barrel, cup, few, this, much

pickle juice, olives, flat tires, pudding, perfume, pizza, 

gasoline, fog, salt water, dynamite, koalas, hair, nails 

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1.The police found ___________  _____________ in the trunk of the car.

2.The woman shopper put _____________ of ____________ behind each ear.

3.___________  _____________ made a daring escape from the zoo. 

4. During the cross-country bicycle race, the riders had ____________  ________________. 

5. When the truck crashed into the tree, a ___________ of _______________ broke open and spilled onto the road.

6. ____________  ____________ is often found in clogged shower drains.

-The End-

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