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

Hi,

Should we say" three days is left" or " three days are left"

Thanks in advance

Hi zagrus,

'three days are left' is the correct form - it's a simple copula, i.e. subject + verb + adjective.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I am confused because I have seen the clause " ten days is left" on many websites. Could that be right in American English?

Can I say " ten days are long time" ?

Thanks in advance

Hi,

"Most of research (focuse or focuses) on the cycle known as rapid eye movement."

the answer is (focuses) right?

Many thanks for your direction.

Hello Saltaon,

'Research' is an uncountable noun and so the correct verb is 'focuses' - the third-person singular form. As an aside, it should also be 'most research' rather than 'most of research'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,
Could you please tell me the difference between these two pairs of sentences?

Pair One-
1. Great pains have been taken. 2. Much pains has been taken.

Pair two -
1. All possible means have been tried. 2. The means employed by you is sufficient.

Although plural forms (pains and means) have been used but the verbs differ. How can we sense whether singular or plural forms of verbs is to be used ?

Thank you so much.

Hello iamsam1987,

In each pair, sentence 1 is correct but sentence 1.2 is not. In 1.2, 'pains' is plural, and so needs a plural quantifier ('many' instead of 'much') as well as a plural verb.

2.2 is correct, as 'means' is singular, though it sounds a bit strange. This is because 'means' isn't usually used in this kind of construction. If you look it up in our Cambridge Dictionaries Online search box on the right, you'll see examples of how it is typically used.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much :)

Dear Sir,

It is said that units of counting (e.g. dozen, gross, score etc.) should always be used in singular forms when preceded by numerals.

Two dozen (correct)
Two dozens (incorrect)

1) My first question to you is why we say "He is seven years old."

"Year" is also a unit of counting. Isn't it ? Then why use "years" instead of "year".

2) My second question to you is what is the difference between these two usage(s)

"fourteen-year-old-boys" and "fourteen years old"

Hello iamsam1987,

1. 'Year' is a unit of time like 'day', 'hour', 'minute' etc. These are used in plural forms.

2. One ('fourteen-year-old boys') is an adjectival form; the other is a number followed by a noun ('fourteen years').

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages