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.



easily undersyood

 Thank you very much British Council. Because it is very easy to understand.

 Why I cant check answers ? Button is inactive.

Just click on 'See Answers' and you will be able to see what you got right and wrong.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

 Maybe,question 1 is right, if we think a kind of tea is grown in Sri Lanka. Do you agree with me?

Hi Zhao Wei

As the text says (problem 1), for almost all uncountable nouns (substances), there are times when they are used in a countable way. A common example of this: Would you like to go for a coffee/beer? 

In the case where uncountable nouns are used in a countable way, they are being used as a short form - a cup of coffee.

This makes the topic really difficult to teach because there are always bright students who will come up with acceptable countable examples for any uncountable noun you can think of.

'A tea is grown in Sri Lanka that was imported from China in the 19th Century.'

This sentence makes sense, but the sentence: 'A tea is grown in Sri Lanka',  on its own, is very difficult to justify.


Jack Radford

The LearnEnglish Team

I'm new here. I got a question. Can anyone here help?

There _____ a man, a lady and some children in the park.

The blank should be filled with   is  or  are ???

Hi Clare,
That's a good question and I couldn't find a definitive answer. But to my mind, you can use either is or are in that sentence. When reading, I've seen many examples of both and neither sounds more or less correct to me.
However, it is easier (and sounds better) to simply say "There are some children, a man and a lady in the park." Then you avoid the tricky 'there is/are' issue entirely.
I hope this helps!
The LearnEnglish Team


Dear all,
Can any body help me with these
1. A pair of shoes is/are...................
2. Two bottles of water is/are..............
3. Five days  is/are..................
I would be grateful if any one could help these with explanation.
Passang Tshering