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

Hello sunrisereham,
The differences are as follows:
'Would you like some cakes?'  >  you have a number of (probably small) cakes and you are offering several of them to your guest.
'Would you like some cake?'  >  you are offering a piece of (probably a slice of) a larger cake.
Would you like some chocolate?'  > you are offering a piece of (a part of) a bar of chocolate.
'Would you like a chocolate?'  >  you are offering one (small) chocolate, probably from a box containing lots of small chocolates.
'Would you like some chocolates?'  >  you are offering your guest two, three or more of the chocolates from the box.
You can find more on count and non-count nouns here and here.
I hope that clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team.

If Company is uncountable, then can we say a company or two companies?
How about staff of the company and all the staff of the company are there considered as uncountable?

Company is not uncountable; it is a collective noun. A collective noun refers to a group of nouns, like army, school, choir, etc. In that sense, company refers to a group of people that run a business together. But if you are referring not to one group but several groups, you use the plural form companies. Collectives have plural forms to express you are expressing more than one collective nouns, e.g.:

In WWII, the British and American armies fought together.
My son likes Animal Planet because he likes watching schools swimming.
Of all the choirs, my school choir is the best!

Hope it helps.

"this is one of the best novels that I've ever heard"
In the above sentence should we use novel or novels........

Hello robby564,
I've just answered this question on another page.  Please post questions once only.  We are a small team so it sometimes takes a little time before we answer questions, but if we are asked the same question multiple times it slows the process down more.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I would like to check on the correct tense to be used in the following question:
“Our school choir ___________ performing at XYZ Opening Ceremony in two weeks’ time.  They have been practising hard for it.
(1)       is
(2)       are
(3)       was
(4)       were”
The term “school choir” is a collective noun and in the context of the first sentence, refers to the choir as a whole as it is acting in unison.  Hence, in my view, it is a singular collective noun here and should read “Our school choir is performing at …”.
Having said the above, my first view was that future tense should be used in the sentence since we are talking about a future action/event i.e. the sentence should read “Our school choir will be performing at XYZ Opening Ceremony in two weeks’ time.”  Since this is not in the list, the next best answer should be “is”.

Hi QWC,
There are a number of nouns in English which can be treated as either singular or plural, and 'choir' is one of these - some others are 'the police', 'the crowd', and 'the audience'. We can choose singular (if we want to talk about the group thinking of it as a whole) or plural (if we are thinking of it as a collection of individuals).
Bearing this in mind, the key question is not singular or plural, but rather time reference.  In your example, the time reference is future time, so we need either 'is' or 'are', not 'was' or 'were'.  Either of these would make a present continuous form, used for future arrangements and so appropriate here.
I hope this clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teacher..

"1)The government is very unpopular.
2)The government are always changing their minds."

I understand the first sentence. but on the second sentence "the govrnment are" , i thought it is like this " the goverments are" since it is plural.

thank you . :)

Hello fizazack,

This is an example of a collective noun.  In British English many collective nouns, such as 'police', 'government', 'family' or 'army', can be used as both singular and plural; in American English they are, I believe, treated as singular.  Thereore in British English both 'the government is...' and 'the government are...' are correct.  Which you use depends on whether you are conceiving the government (or the army, the police etc) as a single body - as an institution - or as a collection of people.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Everyone
Which sentence is Correct
1.It now gives a great pleasure to introduce that marvelous Ventriloqist,Marco Lutman
or
.It now gives great pleasure to introduce that marvelous Ventriloqist,Marco Lutman

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