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 AbdulMohsin,

'Pleasure' is uncountable, so the first sentence (with 'a') is incorrect.

To make the sentence more natural we would also change the second sentence slightly:

It now gives me great pleasure to introduce that marvelous Ventriloqist,Marco Lutman.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello Peter
Thanks for ur prompt reply
500-Piece Jigsaw puzzle that her puzzle her daughter had been doing.
why 500 pieces is incorrect in the above sentence?

Hello AbdulMohsin,

In these kind of nouns with a number-unit of measurement, the plural is not used. For example: a 500-piece puzzle, a 50-euro note, a ten-hour course. This is just the way that English has developed, but it might help to think of the number-unit of measurement as a kind of adjective - adjectives have no plural form in English.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk, for a number-unit of measurement, should we use - (hyphen) between 50-euro, ten-hour course? how about 6 minute english? why is not 6 minutes english? thanks :)

Hello olyvia,

Yes, most of the time a hyphen is used between the number and the measurement. The plural is not generally used with the measurement, as you observe - the reason is that this is the way English has developed over time. It might help to think of the ten-hour in a ten-hour course as being like an adjective - adjectives don't have a plural form in English, and perhaps this will make it easier for you to remember.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
Can you correct this
Thousand of people gathered.

Hello AbdulMohsin,

We would say either

Thousands of people gathered.

or

A thousand people gathered.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

How can clarity the words that have two meaning? How can I know that is uncountable or countable nouns?

Hello keanit,

Many words in English have two meanings and you can usually tell from the context which meaning is relevant.  As with any vocabulary which is different from the words in your own language, you simply have to learn and remember the meanings.

You can often tell if a noun is countable or uncountable from its physical properties. Things which come in individual units (so you can identify one, two, three etc) are countable, such as apples, days, chairs, rivers, cars and so on.  On the other hand, things which we can only describe by saying 'more' or 'less' are uncountable, such as apple sauce, time, wood, water, traffic and so on.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Countable and uncountable nouns has been very confusing to non-English speaker like me. It is more of convention than physical countability .

Pages