1: Uncount nouns used as count nouns

Although substances are usually uncount nouns...

Would you like some cheese?
Coffee keeps me awake at night.
Wine makes me sleep.

... they can be also used as count nouns:

 

I’d like a coffee please.  = I’d like a [cup of] coffee.
May I have a white wine.  = May I have a [glass of] white wine.
They sell a lot of coffees.  = They sell a lot of [different kinds of] coffee.
I prefer white wines to red.  = I prefer [different kinds of] white wine to red.
They had over twenty cheeses on sale.  = They had over twenty [types of] cheese on sale.
This is an excellent soft cheese.  = This [kind of] soft cheese is excellent.

 2: Some nouns have both a count and an uncount form:

We should always have hope.
George had hopes of promotion.
Travel is a great teacher.
Where did you go on your travels?

 

3: Nouns with two meanings

Some nouns have two meanings, one count and the other non count:

His life was in danger.
There is a serious danger of fire.

Linguistics is the study of language.
Is English a difficult language?

It’s made of paper.
The Times is an excellent paper.

Other words like this are:

 

business death  industry marriage power property
tax time victory use work  

 4: Uncount nouns that end in -s

Some uncount nouns end in -s so they look like plurals even though they are singular nouns.

These nouns generally refer to:

Subjects of study: mathematics, physics, economics, etc.
Activities: gymnastics, athletics, etc. 
Games: cards, darts, billiards, etc.
Diseases: mumps, measles, rabies, etc.


Economics is a very difficult subject.
Billiards is easier than pool or snooker.
 

5: Group nouns

Some nouns, like army, refer to groups of people, animals or things, and we can use them either as singular nouns or as plural nouns.

army audience committee company crew enemy
family flock gang government group herd
media public regiment staff team  

We can use these group nouns either as singular nouns or as plural nouns:

  • My family is very dear to me.
    I have a large family. They are very dear to me. (= The members of my family…)
  • The government is very unpopular.
    The government are always changing their minds.

Sometimes we think of the group as a single thing:

  • The audience always enjoys the show.
  • The group consists of two men and three women.

Sometimes we think of the group as several individuals;

  • The audience clapped their hands.
  • The largest group are the boys.


The names of many organisations and teams are also group nouns, but they are usually plural in spoken English:

  • Barcelona are winning 2-0.
  • The United Oil Company are putting prices up by 12%.
     

6: Two-part nouns

A few plural nouns, like binoculars, refer to things that have two parts.

glasses jeans knickers pincers pants pliers
pyjamas scissors shorts spectacles tights trainers
trousers tweezers        

These binoculars were very expensive
Those trousers are too long.

To make it clear we are talking about one of these items, we use a pair of …

I need a new pair of spectacles.
I’ve bought a pair of blue jeans.

If we want to talk about more than one, we use pairs of … :

We’ve got three pairs of scissors, but they are all blunt.
I always carry two pairs of binoculars.
 

Exercise

Comments

Dear Passang,
Here are my answers to your questions.

  1. Both are possible. Different people have different opinions on this.
  2. are
  3. are

Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

What are tow meaning of language, victory, marriage, use, power, work, and property ?

Hello everyone! I'm almost new here and I want to thank you for the wonderful work you do ( the BC team).
I also have a question. You used the example "The largest group are the boys." to illustrate that we sometimes think of a group as several individuals, and therefore we use the plural form of the verb. But in this example, we don't use the "are" form of the verb "to be" related to "the largest group"(underlined), but with "the boys" - or am I wrong? Thank you!

Hello,
Just a question; thanks to help me... In the case we would like to say :
Barcelona are the winner or Barcelona are the winners ?
Andrée

my question is about travel word .
i think travel is used as uncountable word so we dont use a with italso i think we use singular verb with news,family,company 
 
also i want to be sure if we can convert uncountable nouns into countable by adding a+of such as you have beautiful hair _____there is a hair in my soup 
 
can we use number with plural or not??
 uncountable?are experience,luck,work,and job 

Hello Jackhinchliffe!

That's quite a lot of questions! However, the answer is the same. Some uncountable nouns can also be used as countable nouns, although the meaning is usually slightly different. Other uncountable nouns are only used uncountably.

Travel is usually uncountable, as in 'I like travel'. Sometimes, though, it means journeys. 'Let me tell you about my travels in Asia.' But we don't ever say 'a
travel'.

Hair, like you say, can be uncountable (he has brown hair) and mean all of the hair on someone's head, or it can be a single piece of hair, or even 2 hairs.

For the other words, again, some like experience (He has experience with computers; My trip to Japan was a good experience) or work (Work is important; a work of art) can be uncountable or countable, but luck is only uncountable, and Job is always countable.

The best thing to do is to use a good dictionary to check the word. Don't forget we have a search box for the Cambridge Dictionaries included on the site!
 
Hope that helps!
 
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir, 
I've got a problem with the following sentence
"THIS IS  ONE OF THE BEST NOVELS THAT I'VE EVER HEARD"
should we use novel or novels ........

Hello robby564,
The correct form is 'novels' because 'one of...' needs a plural noun after it.  The meaning is one of a group - here, all of the novels which the person has read.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

it`s really helpfull
 

Hello I have a question about  countable and uncountable nouns
when i want to offer cake and chocolate what is the difference when i say would you like some cakes? and would like a chocolate?  and what is the difference between some cake and some cakes and some chocolate, a chocolate and some chocolates in offering and which the correct

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