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

Section: 

Comments

hi, can you please explain this. Below is the explanation of how plural nouns are used. then why this sentence is incorrect "I need to buy a new trousers."

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.

Hi navira,

'Trousers' is a plural noun and so we cannot say 'a trousers'. You can say either of the following:

I need to buy some new trousers.

I need to buy a new pair of trousers.

In the first sentence, 'trousers' is plural. In the second 'pair' is a singular noun, just as 'group', 'collection', 'set' and so on are singular. These are called 'collective nouns'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Kindly Sir,
These two questions baffles me. And i got them wrong.
How can a scissors be "some scissors"?
How can "run a business" be correct?

According to what i read uncountable nouns do not go with an indefinite article A/An.
Or am i misunderstanding the rule?

Choose the correct sentence.
It's not easy to run a business and raise a family.
It's not easy to run business and raise a family.

Choose the correct sentence.
Can you lend me some scissors?
Can you lend me a scissors?

Hello Faizan,

Even though 'scissors' refers to one object, it is a plural noun and so often is sometimes used with plural determiners (such as 'some'). You can also hear people say 'a scissors', though I'm not sure this would be considered correct by everyone. Another, more standard way of referring to them is to say 'a pair of scissors' (which is singular).

'business' is used as both a count and uncount noun. In this case, it refers to a particular company, and in this use it is a count noun.

It's great that you've asked these questions -- you will learn a lot this way!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

''100 000 is much''
''100 000 is many''

Which should I use if the meaning here is the number is big in amount?

Thank you.

Hello JamlMakav,

To be honest, I'd say '100,000 is a lot' and not either of the forms you ask about.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Please explain this to me.
Can we say most money ? Eg. Most money was spent on recreation.
Money is uncountable so can't we say much mony.
Thank you
Best regards
Andrew international

Hello Andrew international,

The meaning of 'most money' and 'much money' is not the same. 'Much' means the same as 'a lot of', but we generally use 'much' in questions ('How much money have you got?') and negatives ('I haven't got much money') rather than affirmative sentences. It is perfectly fine to say 'It cost a lot of money'.

'Most' means 'more than the rest' or 'more than half the total', depending on the context. For example:

'The government spent some money on education and culture, but it spent most money on health.'

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,

''Half of the toaster work (or works)''

Is half of it still singular?

Thank you.

Helli JakiGeh,

When we use 'half of + noun' the verb which follows agrees with the noun. For example:

half of the people are ['people' is plural, so the verb is plural]

half of the toaster is ['toaster' is singular, so the verb is singular]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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