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The noun land is considered uncountable, at least for most cases. However, to my opinion, there is a situation when this word would appear more natural being countable noun. I mean plots of land, i.e. those pieces of land which are someone's property and which, as a rule, clearly separated from other world and precisely measured.

So is it so wrong to say I have a land/a couple of lands in Atherton, CA.? (Google says this place is where the most expensive land in the USA)

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  • I have some acres of land
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 20:21

3 Answers 3

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In my experience land is countable only when it is a (rather poetic) word for "country, nation".

I have a land in Atherton is something that is immediately identifiable as said by a non-native speaker.

Unfortunately, your attempt to deduce English from logic is not useful. Languages are what they are, not what somebody thinks they ought to be.

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  • Can someone say I have a couple of land in Atherton meaning they have two plots of land there or a couple of land is not idiomatic too? Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 17:49
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    Speculating about language rules based on logic is normally very useful. It doesn't always work, which is why the OP asked about it.
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 18:06
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    @IlyaLoskutov: A couple of land is not idiomatic for two reasons. First because a couple of is followed by a plural not a singular. Secondly for the same reason as a land is not idiomatic.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 18:54
  • @gotube: yes, it sometimes works. The problem is that, like the etymological fallacy, you have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not it is useful in a particular case, so it is utterly utterly unreliable.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 17:28
  • @ColinFine My point is there's no call to call out the OP's attempt to guess things based on logic. A student who uses logical reasoning to extend their knowledge will make mistakes, certainly, but will get so much more correct because even in an exception-filled language like English, nearly everything follows rules. Even in this case, the OP's guess was still useful because they knew to ask the question here and learned the guess wrong, so now they know.
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 17:46
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That would be logical, but as a dictionary definition shows, this is still an uncountable use of the word "land". Using "I have a land in Atherton" is not idiomatic.

The only countable use is in the sense of "a country" as in "a land of ice and snow".

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  • In Britain, we could say that someone (e.g. a nobleman or rich person) holds or owns lands; it's a bit specialised - Domesday Book valued the Surrey estates of Chertsey Abbey in 1066 at £189 a year, the abbey's only other holdings being £11 worth in Berkshire. Harold's lands in Surrey were valued at £175 a year, while another £15 worth were still entered under the name of his late father Earl Godwin. (Donald Henson, 'The English Elite in 1066: Gone but not forgotten' [2001] ) Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 17:59
  • Also 'Parliamentary Survey of Church Lands in Surrey, made between 1649-1658' Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 18:00
  • Areas of land: In California, the Bureau of Land Management oversees: 15 million acres of public lands in California – about 15% of the Golden State’s total land mass. So I can own lands but not a land. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 18:02
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    @MichaelHarvey The mistake is using "land" as countable, not as plural, but your examples are all about using "land" as plural. You'll need to show an idiomatic use of "land" as countable to counter James's claim
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 18:05
  • @gotube: As you say. "Lands" is a collective, like the German "Gelaende", and does not have a singular.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 18:56
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This is an interesting question. I have actually encountered the use of "lands" in the plural noun form.

One such usage references holdings in land, and is almost always in a formal context pertaining to a national or governmental land and estate planning office, department or service. It seems to be perfectly valid usage in this context, even though "technically" land is considered to be uncountable in this sense.

Examples of such usage include these from Canada:

https://oneida.on.ca/lands-estates/

https://www.kanesatake.ca/wp/lands-estates/

This from Kenya (a former British colony, so this is unlikely to be a simple grammatical gaffe):

https://lands.go.ke/

And this from Hong Kong (again, a former British colony with a high standard of formal English in official contexts):

https://www.landsd.gov.hk/en/index.html

Dictionary definitions mentioning this specific usage are sparse, but I managed to find a couple:

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/lands

lands

pl n

holdings in land

and

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/lands

c. lands Territorial possessions or property.

Personally, if you were to write a sentence like "He was extremely wealthy, with many lands to his name", I would consider it perfectly acceptable usage, as it implies that he owns many distinct plots of (non-contiguous) land. This is in contrast to a sentence like "He has much land to his name", which could just as easily mean that he owns a single (contiguous) large plot of land.

Another context I've encountered the word in, is in the sense of multiple nations. For example, "People of Many Lands" was a BBC school TV series broadcast from the 1950s to the 1970s:

https://www.broadcastforschools.co.uk/site/People_of_Many_Lands

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