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

Please clarify the sentences below:
1. Is it right to say "This scissors is blunt"? Or do we say "These scissors or this pair of scissors is blunt"?
2. Also, do we say "The government are in crisis?" OR "The government is in crisis?"

Thanks in advance.

Hello urekharao,

'Scissors' is a plural noun and so both the verb and the determiner should be plural in your sentence. You can say either of the following:

These scissors are blunt.

This pair of scissors is blunt.

'The government' can be singular or plural - both are correct. If we are thinking of 'the government' as a collection of individuals then we use a plural form; if we are thinking of the institution then we use a singular form. It is entirely up to the speaker.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Why do we say "many tiny" instead of "too little" or "too small" ?
For example; "many tiny strands"

Hello ASdfghjklove,

'Many tiny strands' has a different meaning. It means 'a lot of small strands'. 'Too little' or 'too small' have different meanings.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear BC team,
as for the two-part nouns. We cannot count them. We cannot say 2 sunglasses/jeans/pyjamas/shorts etc. However, we can count them with "pairs of", we can say 2/5/20 pairs of sunglasses/jeans/pyjamas/shorts/scissors. What about quantifiers? Is it grammatically correct to say many/a lot of/plenty of sunglasses/jeans/pyjamas/shorts/scissors? Or do I have to say many/a lot of/plenty of pairs of sunglasses/jeans/pyjamas/shorts/scissors?
Thank you very much for your answer.
Radovan
P.S. You are doing a great job here.

Hello Radovan,

Strictly speaking, you should probably say the latter ('plenty of pairs of jeans'), but I've certainly used the other forms myself, as well as heard plenty of other people use them.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Does the word "people" requires to be always followed by a plural verb? or can it be used sporadically with a singular verb? For example "People is defined using adjectives as intelligent, ......"

Thanks

Hello Mayela,

Other than when talking about 'people' as a word, e.g. ''people' is a noun' or in the sentence you cite, I can't think of any instance in which 'people' is treated as singular in English. As I'm sure you've noticed, it's different from Spanish, and it's a difficult thing to remember – many of my students here make this error frequently. It's not a serious error, but using it correctly will definitely make your English sound better, at least to most native speakers.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello there,
where do we put "people's choice" in this case?
thank you

Hello Shakespeare_in_love,

I'm sorry, but I don't understand your question. Could you rephrase it, please?

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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