Here are some examples from dictionaries where hope is used in the plural

people have hopes of increasing trade between the two regions (Collins Cobuild)

she has hopes of studying to be a nurse (LDOCE)

he secretly cherished hopes that George would marry his daughter (OALD)

His early hopes of freedom were now gone.

Hopes are high that a resolution to the conflict can be found.

Hopes of a peaceful end to the strike are now growing.

Hopes for the missing men are fading.

Here are also some dictionary examples in which hope is used as an uncountable noun, hence in the singular form:

Hope faded after wrecked remains of the ship were washed onto the shore.

Hope remains that survivors will be found.

 the treatment gave him renewed hope

 I didnʼt give up hope of being released.

I donʼt hold out much hope of finding a buyer.

I am wondering why ‘hope’ is sometimes used in the plural while otherwise in the singular. Or, is there any guideline as to when hope should be used as uncountable and when as countable in the plural? Could anyone help on this? Many thanks in advance!


No particular meaning is implied. This is a set phrase, and it is marked as such in "Collins Cobuild":

high/great hopes

phrase (!!!)

If you have high hopes or great hopes that something will happen, you are confident that it will happen.

I had high hopes that Derek Randall might play an important part. Britain's three-day event team has high hopes of winning the Olympic gold medal. He had no great hopes for the success of his undertaking.

[Also + of/for]

Set phrases just come to be a certain way over time. You just need to learn their "overall" meaning and simply parrot them.

That it makes no sense to try to analyze a phrase for literal meaning of its components is also evident in the case of phrasal verbs. As Oxford Dictionaries grammar section says, "A phrasal verb is a verb that is made up of a main verb together with an adverb or a preposition, or both. Typically, their meaning is not obvious from the meanings of the individual words themselves."

In the same way, analyzing this particular phrase (which seems to have emerged at the beginning of the 19th century) for countability or uncountability makes no sense. It just is what it is.

  • 1
    The OP's examples of countable hope being used include usages that aren't set phrases. While phrases such as high hopes or hopes and dreams require a plural, it can also be used outside of them. – Maciej Stachowski Aug 29 '18 at 13:16

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