Uncountable nouns
2 people around a laptop

Rossana Guérin from France writes:

I must express my appreciation to the BBC for such a useful website for us foreigners (especially adults) who need a teacher to help us with our problems.

Please kindly tell me if there is a plural form for the following words: information, administration, management, disease.

Roger Woodham replies:
    All of these nouns in English are uncountable, i.e. they refer to collections of things which we see as mass items and which cannot be counted separately. Although they have a plural meaning, most uncountable nouns like this (including information, administration, management, advice, accommodation) are singular with no plural form.

However, even though they are singular, we cannot normally use the indefinite article (a/an) with uncountable nouns and instead must use some/any/no, indicating plurality. To make an uncountable noun countable, we often use the construction a…of. Let's see how all of this applies to these nouns under discussion:



This information is very useful. It will help me to find my way around France.But I don't yet have any information about Brittany and there is no information about the offshore islands.


Let me give you some advice / a piece of advice. Always use the motorways in France. They are quite expensive but much less crowded than the main roads.


You will find that two-star hotels provide perfectly good accommodation. It is inexpensive and most accommodation of this kind is located away from busy roads.

management and administration

In this hotel chain, too much time is spent on administration and not enough on management. If we don't get more women into top management, a change of management will be necessary.

These are the normal uses of these terms. But note that when we refer to the administration as the government of a country - usually the US - plural forms are possible. This usage provides us with an exception to the general rule:

  • The administrations of Carter and Clinton were similar in many ways.

Some nouns have both uncountable and countable uses relating to more general and more particular instances of use. Disease is a good example of this, Rosanna as are, e.g., time and experience. When used countably, plural forms may arise. Compare the following:

time - a time / times

  • It's time now to finish the game and come in for supper.
  • There's no time to lose. We must try to get home before dark.
  • There was a time when I went to church every Sunday.
  • Now there are times when I don't set foot inside a church for months on end.

experience - an experience

  • You need quite a lot of work experience to do this job properly and I don't have very much.

  • Walking across hot coals is an experience I shall never forget.
    disease - a disease / diseases
  • The rapid spread of disease in this area was ascribed to poor sanitation.

  • Tuberculosis and scarlet fever were both common in the Nineteenth Century, but these diseases have largely died out now.

  • vCJD, a progressive fatal disease of the central nervous system, also known as mad-cow disease, has now claimed its 100th victim in Britain.

Note that the names of common illnesses are usually uncountable in English, though there are a few exceptions such as a cold, a sore throat, a headache. Compare the following:

  • Measles, and chicken pox are common ailments in childhood.

  • Old people especially are susceptible to flu in winter.

  • Generally, earache and toothache are more painful than stomach-ache or backache.

  • The common cold is characterised by a sore throat, a runny nose, headaches and a bad cough.

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