Is it correct to say "physical illnesses" in the next sentence?

"People who feel unhappy and who are, therefore, unlikely to laugh so much, suffer more often from PHYSICAL ILLNESS."

I had this sentence in an English test. I wrote "physical illnesses" instead of "physical illness" and it was a mistake. Why?

1 Answer 1


'Illness' can be an uncountable noun, and 'an illness' and 'illnesses' can be countable singular and plural nouns. 'Illness' means 'illness in general', while 'an illness' means one particular illness. It is equally true to say that unhappy people suffer from more 'physical illness' in general AND 'physical illnesses' which we can name and count.

When you say 'It was a mistake', do you mean 'It was marked as a mistake'? If so, I don't think it should have been. Google Ngram Viewer shows that 'suffer from physical illness' and 'suffer from physical illnesses' are both used (as well as 'suffer from a physical illness').

  • 2
    Whether the answer is correct or incorrect depends on what the question was on the test. Context is very important.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 15:00
  • 1
    OK. Thanks! I think I've got it
    – Aleksandra
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 13:59

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