In Cambridge online dictionary there are nouns which can be countable or uncountable at the same time. Example https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/society?q=Societies

1) What does that mean?

2) Also which of the following sentences is grammatical :-

Media has a double-edged effect on society.

Media has a double-edged effect on societies.

  • grammarly is an internet site, it is not a word in the English language.
    – Lambie
    Sep 29, 2018 at 15:13
  • What is the correct word :) ?
    – Costa
    Sep 30, 2018 at 7:01
  • 1
    A sentence is said to be grammatical or grammatically correct.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30, 2018 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


Some (possibly most) mass nouns can be considered countable in certain circumstances.

Take water for example.

You'll need a lot of water if you hike in the desert.

Is water a mass noun? Certainly. But now let's say you're in a restaurant with your friends and the waiter asks who wants water. You and four other friends indicate that you want water. The waiter says,

OK, five waters, then.

Water has just become countable, because the word now refers to individual portions of water. It could also refer to different types of water: sparkling water, still water, spring water, salt water, and so on. Substitute another mass noun and the story is the same. Five beers, five soups, whatever.

With respect to society vs. societies, either can be used. In the singular it refers to whatever the present context addresses, most likely the society you currently live in. Or it could also refer to society in general, human or animal, throughout the ages. But if it's plural, it refers to different societies in different times or places, or both. So either usage is grammatical, but you should make sure you're using the right one for the meaning you wish to convey.

  • There is also: "the waters of the sea" in the Bible.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30, 2018 at 13:04
  • And "the waters of the heart" from "Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines" by Dylan Thomas.
    – Robusto
    Sep 30, 2018 at 13:22
  • Yes, I was just giving that because that literary usage is a better example than "five waters" which really means: five glasses of water and is restaurant lingo....This parallels people and peoples.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30, 2018 at 13:47
  • @Lambie: You don't have to be judgmental. I used that example because it was easy to demonstrate.
    – Robusto
    Sep 30, 2018 at 19:28

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