On Cambridge Dictionary web site under British English tab, there is examples on "paper" word. on of these examples use "papers" word.

"paper" in British English: thin, flat material made from crushed wood or cloth, used for writing, printing, or drawing on.

Example: He rifled through the papers on the desk, but couldn't find the photographs.

Do we use papers (as flat material, not as newspapers) in British English?

When we say: give me the paper. what does this mean in British English? one or more than one?

  • Papers can just mean documents, and this may be the case here.
    – Mick
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 16:02
  • @Mick , thank you, Do we use papers (as flat material, not as newspapers) in British English?
    – Shannak
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 18:13
  • 1
    Paper is the mass noun. Papers means a collection of documents such as letters, invoices, stuff you have written yourself, etc. Paperwork is another term for this, although it means documents that have to be dealt with in some way.
    – Mick
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:51
  • Note that paper is a substance. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 22:22

2 Answers 2


Paper can be used as both a singular and collective noun.

Therefore, paper can refer to both a single sheet of paper as well as multiple sheets of paper.

Papers emphasizes multiple sheets of paper. It makes clear that the person wishes to be handed multiple sheets of paper, often ones that are meant to be together.

When speaking of a newspaper, you would simply use paper.


Some aspects I'd like to consider:

  • We generally use "paper" or "papers" to refer to a piece of writing containing some information. For instance, if you go to an airport, the staff may ask: "Could you give me your papers, please?". In this case, "papers" could be a passport, some work permission, or another kind of document.
  • The noun "paper" can also be used as a synonym for "newspaper" (e.g. He bought a paper/newspaper) If "paper" in your sentence means material (e.g. the house is made of paper), it's an uncountable noun.
  • Conversely, if you want to talk about the flat object with which we usually write, I believe the appropriate term is "a sheet of paper". Now, it's countable. Therefore, you could say something like: "I required ten sheets of paper to make my essay".

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This is a sheet of paper.

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