Level: beginner 

Substances as count or uncount nouns

Substances are usually uncount nouns:

Would you like some cheese?
Coffee keeps me awake at night.
Wine makes me sleepy.

but they can also be 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. = They had over twenty [types of] cheese.
This is an excellent soft cheese. = This [kind of] soft cheese is excellent.

Substances as count or uncount nouns 1


Substances as count or uncount nouns 2


Nouns with both a count and an uncount form

Some nouns have both a count and an uncount form. Their meanings are closely related:

George had hopes of promotion.
We should always have hope.

There's a danger of avalanches on the mountain.
Some people enjoy danger.

Level: intermediate

Nouns with two meanings

Some nouns have two meanings, one count and the other uncount:

Can I have a glass of water?
I cut myself on some glass.


Is English a difficult language?
Linguistics is the study of language.

The Times is an excellent paper.
It's made of paper.

Other nouns like this are:

business industry property wood
power time work hair
Nouns with two meanings 1


Nouns with two meanings 2


Uncount nouns that end in –s

Some uncount nouns end in –s. They look like plural count nouns, but they are not.

Nouns like this 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.

Uncount nouns that end in –s




Hello BlackSheep,

No, a variety of prepositions can be used after 'travel' - if you look at the example sentences in different dictionaries (e.g. Cambridge, Oxford) I expect you'll see several.

'on purpose' is a fixed expression (scroll down the page to see the definition), kind of like 'on time' and many others.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team



We should always have hope.
George had hopes of promotion

In the above two example 'hope' is in count and uncount form as you said.
please, elaborate this?

Hello A K Pathak,

You can find information on this type of query in a good dictionary. For example, if you search for 'hope' in the Cambridge Dictionary, you'll see a link to a grammar page on 'hope', which I think will answer your questions and will at least give you an explanation and example sentences. After you've looked through that, if you have specific questions, please let us know.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


I have a question about using currency and measurement units. Do we use them as plural or singular?
e.g. There are 100 Cents in an one Dollar.
20 dollars is a lot to lose.
So, when do we use currency as plural?
Many Thanks.

Hello The sky view,

It depends on how you view them. In 'There are 100 cents in a dollar', you're talking about how many cents there in a dollar - since this idea includes the idea of many cents, the plural is used. In '$20 is a lot to lose', on the other hand, the idea is of an amount of money ($20) and in this way it is like one unit in itself. In addition, if the dollars are US dollars, there is a $20 note, so the speaker could be thinking about the $20 note.

It can be a bit difficult to see in this abstract, so if you have any more specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask us.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,
Would you consider "noodles" a count or uncount noun. "I've eaten too much noodles" and "I've eaten too many noodles" –– which of these two sentences is incorrect?
Thank you!

Hi Elli3,

'Noodles' is a countable nouns, and so we would say 'too many noodles'. By contrast, 'spaghetti' and 'rice' are uncountable.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Please tell me whether this sentence is correct or not. In my opinion it is
correct but I would like to know your answer.
A pair of cotton trousers is Rs. 2000.00.
I think it is correct because 'A pair' is the subject.
Thank you.
Best regards

Hello Andrew international,

Yes, that sentence is correct. The subject is the noun phrase 'A pair of cotton trousers', which is singular.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
I went through your website uncountable nouns and abstract nouns
but I couldn't find an answer to this but it was very useful.
My question is this: is 'life' an uncountable noun? I think it is so under abstract nouns but I have seen clauses such as - 'his life; 'their lives.
Please explain this to me.
Thank you in advance.
Best regards
Andrew international