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,
What verb should be used with plural nouns like 'Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games.
For example, 'The Olympic Games is/are going to start next month'.
Thanks

Hello naghmairam,

A plural verb is used for the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and any others with the word 'games' in the title.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
I have read this sentence, the United Oil Company are putting prices up by 12%. In the guidelines said that when we consider these nouns plural in spoken English. My question would be, what about written English?

Hi zjboss,

I would say that plural is the most common in both spoken and written English.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/about-nouns/noun...

At the bottom of this page, there's a chart of the abstract noun usage. The chart has this sentence ''we had a great time in Ibiza...'' and under (a specific period of time). Why isn't ''the'' used there if it has (a specific period of time) under? I still see the sentence with the article ''a'' as ''there are many great times and we had one of them which isn't particular'', in other words, I think a listener doesn't know what ''time''. It is the same with the sentence above ''the job requires a knowledge of statistics and basic computing''. Shouldn't the article ''the'' be used instead there?

Thank you very much

Hello MCWSL,

I'm sorry but we really can't provide explanations of how and why language is used the way it is on other sites. We have enough to do explaining the examples on our own pages (which we are happy to do) but can't offer an explanatory service for any and all examples on the internet! If you have a question about an example on the Cambridge Dictionary site then I suggest you contact them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Re: passive voice or not

Tea is grown in Sri Lanka. Tea is exported. The structure of these two sentences seems to be pasive Please let me know whether they are passive or not.
Thank you.
Regards
Andrew international

Hello Andrew international,

Yes, both of those sentences are passive.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Ref. on Sunday
Thank you very much for explaning the above mentioned phrase
It was not very clear for me before.
Regards
Andrew international
18.04.17

Dear Sir
Please explain this to me.
The shop is closed on Sunday. If this sentence is correct 'on Sunday' means every Sunday
I am I correct? Is it also correct to say' The shop is closed 'on Sundays.'
Please let me know.
Regards
Andrew international

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