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Invariable plural nouns

(Pluralia Tantum)

Here belong:

1. Names of things that consist of two similar halves:

Glasses, scissors, trousers, spectacles, scales, tongs, shorts, suspenders, tights, pyjamas, pincers, breeches, pants, binoculars, irons

These scissors are sharp.

Note. Being only plural in form these nouns are nevertheless countable. We can say:

A pair of scissors

This pair of scissors is mine.

Two pair(s) of scissors.

2. Concrete nouns with a collective meaning:

Stairs, goods, slums, outskirts, belongings, sweepings, clothes, dregs, greens, lodgings, customs

3. Abstract nouns with a collective meaning:

Tidings, holidays, goings-on, earnings, contents, wages, odds, tropics, doings, remains


4. Some proper nouns: the Netherlands, the East Indies, the West Indies, the Hebrides, the Highlands, the Midlands

Note 1. The nouns a gate, a watch, a sledge, a sleigh are not Pluralia Tantum as are the corresponding Russian words.

Note 2. Pay attention to some words that may cause difficulty:

clothes – одежда (Pl.T.)

a cloth – кусок материи

cloth – материя, ткань

How much cloth will I need to make a pair of trousers?

iron – железо

an iron – утюг

irons – оковы, кандалы (Pl.T.)

work – работа

a work – исследование, произведение, сочинение

a works – завод, механизм (Sing. = Pl.)

damage – вред, ущерб

damages – убытки (Pl.T.)

pain – боль

I have pains in my back.

pains – усилия (Pl.T.)

He takes great pains to solve this problem.

colours – флаг, честь

a quarter – четверть

quarters – квартира (Sing. = Pl.)

content –

1) содержание, суть (противоположное – форма)

I like the style of his writing, but I don’t like the content.

2) содержание вещества

I don’t eat food with a high fat content.

contents – содержимое (Pl.T.)

1) содержимое сумки, бутылки, и т.д., содержание беседы

He drank the contents of the bottle.

The police emptied her bag and examined the contents.

The Prime Minister declined to go into details on the contents of his talks with the Chancellor.

2) содержание (оглавление) книги


Uncountable nouns


They can become countable with a change of meaning. This takes place with


1) abstract nouns

work – a work

war – a war

light – a light

death - a death

thought – a thought


2) material nouns


- denoting sorts, varieties

A tea (a wine, etc) you have never tasted before.

Iron is a metal. Nescafe is a coffee.


- denoting portions

He ordered a salad and two coffees.



- with a stylistic colouring to denote great amounts (the emphatic plural)

the waters of the Pacific

the snows of Kilimanjaro

the sands of the Sahara

the heats of the desert

the colds of the North


- denoting a whole but not its contents

I like roast potatoes with fried onions.

I had a boiled egg for breakfast.

But: You’ve got egg all down your tie.

mashed potato

Fish served with slices of lemon.

A clove of garlic (зубок чеснока);

Garlic is always uncountable.


The Use of Articles with Uncountable Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns may be countable and uncountable.

Countable abstract nouns include such nouns as answer, sentence, effort, holiday, word, plan, opinion, job, fact, story, etc.

Uncountable abstract nouns include such nouns as beauty, freedom, happiness, respect, love, time, work, excitement, etc.


Many abstract nouns can be used both as countable and uncountable nouns (sometimes in different meanings):


Work - работа a work - произведение

Silence - тишина, молчание a silence - пауза

Experience – опыт an experience – случай из жизни

Grammar – грамматика a grammar – учебник по грамматике

Society – общество a society – организация, кружок

Kindness – доброта kindness – доброе дело

Decision – решительность, решимость a decision - решение

Light – свет a light – источник света, огонек


Note. The nouns comfort, relief, pity, pleasure, shame, disappointment and some others are used with the indefinite article after the exclamatory what and after it is (was):


It is a pleasure to see you.

It was a relief to know that she was already home.

What a pity!


1. As a general rule, uncountable abstract nouns are used without any article:


Indifference and pride look very much alike.

She had attached herself to youth and hope and seriousness and now they failed her more than age and despair.


2. Uncountable abstract nouns are used with the definite article when they are modified by a limiting attribute, or when the limitation is clear from the context:

He was in a state of the greatest excitement.

For a long time they walked without saying a word. Jim was the first to break the silence.


3. Uncountable abstract nouns are used with the indefinite article when they are modified by a descriptive attribute which brings out a special aspect of the notion expressed by the noun:


A dull anger rose in her chest.

His face had a calmness that was new to her.

The violets filled the air with a wild fresh sweetness.

She had a natural grace that was very attractive.

There was a bitterness in her voice. (a bitterness = a certain bitterness)


The use of the indefinite article with uncountable abstract nouns is typical of literary style.


4. No article is used when an uncountable abstract noun is modified by attributes expressing


a) degree (great, perfect, sufficient, huge, tremendous, immense, sheer, utter, complete, infinite, endless, major, etc),

b) time ( modern, ancient, impending, eternal, daily, contemporary, final, original),

c) nationality (English, French, etc.),

d) geography ( Moscow, London, world, etc.),

e) authenticity (real, genuine, authentic, false, symbolic, etc.),

f) social characteristic (bourgeois, capitalist, racial, religious, etc.).

I have perfect confidence in him.

She has great experience in her work.

I'm sure your work will give you complete satisfaction.

I didn't think it had real importance.

They talked about modern poetry.

It's three o'clock by Moscow time.

Ron was particularly interested in ancient sculpture.

Note.But the definite article is used with the combinations French poetry, modern art, American literature, German philosophy, etc. if there is a limiting attribute, as in: theRussian literature of that period, theFrench poetry of the 19th century, etc.


5. Some nouns are never used with the indefinite article. Here refer the nouns advice, applause,, assistance, concern, information, permission, progress, research, work, fun, health, luck, money, news, bread, weather, furniture, music, nonsense, equipment, scenery, luggage, evidence and some others.


I am not sure whether it is good news or bad.

He was anxiously waiting for permission to begin his experi­ment.


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