I found the following sentences in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English at the word origin 1:

  • A new theory to explain the origins of the universe.
  • Most coughs are viral in origin.
  • The word is French in origin.
  • The tradition has its origins in the Middle Ages.
  • Old folk tales of unknown origin country/place of origin (=where something came from).
  • All meat should be clearly labelled with its country of origin.
  • Two thirds of the pupils are of Asian origin.
  • The form asks for information about the person’s ethnic origin.
  • Immigrants rarely return to their country of origin.
  • She never forgot her humble origins.

I am confused! The word origin is countable and uncountable noun. Can somebody explain to me how to use the word origin in a sentence? I don't know if I have to use the word origin as an uncountable or countable noun in a sentence.

I know that when the word origin is countable noun then the word origin can be used in singular and also in plural (origins) . When the word origin is uncountable noun, the word origin can be used only in singular. I know that the word origin is singular and takes singular verb. I also know that the word origins is plural and takes plural verb.

Then I wrote the following sentences by myself :

1.The origins of the universe is God.
2.The origins of the universe are God.
3.The origin of the universe is God.
4.The origin of the universe are God.
5.My ethnic origins is Greek.
6.My ethnic origins are Greek.
7.My ethnic origin is Greek.
8.My ethnic origin are Greek.

Are my eight sentences grammatically correct?

  • In order to prevent this question from being closed, you should provide more detail. For example, do you know how to use count and non-count nouns in a sentence? Do you know whether "origin" is singular or plural? Do you know whether it would take a singular or plural verb? We don't proofread here, so in order to get a good answer you'll need to first tell us what you know about the topic. Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 8:55
  • Great! I'm still unsure why you say "I know that the word origin is singular and takes singular verb" but then ask whether "My ethnic origin are Greek" is correct. (You know that "are" is a plural verb in that sentence, right?) But I see that EA has provided a rather lengthy answer, so I hope that that helps. Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 14:52
  • @MarcInManhattan Hi. I asked whether "My ethnic origin are Greek" is correct because I wanted to be sure if I can combine the word 'origin' with a plural verb. I didn't know how to use a word which is a countable and uncountable noun. Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 4:38

1 Answer 1


[copied from ELU; I'm not sure why advice was given to resubmit the question here. Queries of the correctness of multiple sentences are usually off-topic on ELU, but this question essentially asks about the count and noncount usages of 'origin' / 'origins', a single topic.]

Please look up various existing threads here on ELU, on noncount and count nouns. As CGEL says, it's actually very unhelpful to consider nouns as inherently count (consider the noncount usage of coffee, say:

  • "Coffee is my favourite drink")

or noncount (now consider

  • "Two coffees, please" and "The two most widely grown coffees are arabica and robusta").

It's usages that are either count or noncount. Many nouns can swing both ways.

And note that a few plural-form noncount usages exist:

  • Damages were awarded to the defendant by the court.
  • *Three damages were awarded to the defendants by the court.              [asterisk showing unacceptable sentence]


With 'origin', the picture is even more complex. Both the singular and plural forms are available, taking the expected agreement (origin is; origins are), but as Longman says, they are usually interchangeable other than as regards verb agreement (unlike say coffee / coffees).

Note also that Longman does say that 'origin' can be used in both count and noncount [(C,U)] ways. The count usage (do not confuse this with the common noncount plural form; we wouldn't say "My 5 ethnic origins are in South-east Asia", so this is a plural-form noncount usage) is rare. I have found an example in a scientific article from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, PNAS:

Two of the three replication origins in each species were located in the vicinity of a cdc6/orc1 replication initiation gene ...

As might be expected, the count usage focuses more precisely on an origin / source / birthplace than the more inclusive, general noncount usage. But the broader, more general (perhaps 'fuzzier' is too pejorative) sense is what is usually the more convenient one.


Here, examples 1,4,5 and 8 are ungrammatical. 'Interchangeable / synonymous' yes ... but the required verb-form may need adjusting.

2 and 3 seem conceptually muddled (origin/origins are usually non-sentient; 'originator' would be somewhat better).

While 6 and 7 are both acceptable, 7 is more commonly found according to Google Ngrams. However, the plural-form variant might well be preferred to hint strongly at complex, detailed beginnings. And note that 'beginning/s' behaves rather similarly.

The Cambridge English Dictionary gives more detail on when the plural- or singular-form noncount usage might be (or must be) preferred:

(a) It's a book about the origin/s of the universe.

either totally acceptable and idiomatic.

(b) Her unhappy childhood was the origin of her problems later in life.

the plural form would not co-exist happily with 'was', required by the subject.

(c) He is of North African origin. / (d) What is your country of origin?

'of origin', not 'of origins'.

(e) We begin our dip into local history by examining the town's origins.

arguably the more idiomatic, the plural-form noncount usage strongly connoting (at least) a complex, multifaceted early history

(f) The Easter egg has both pagan and Christian origins.

certainly needs the plural form, but I'd again argue against this being regarded as a count usage. 'The Easter egg has several origins, both pagan and Christian' doesn't work. 'Origins' is here more unitary, an agglomeration of strands rather than strands considered totally separately. Note that 'The Easter egg has origins both pagan and Christian' is perfectly grammatical if a little rarefied.

  • @MariosAthanasiou Just a reminder, questions with one or more upvoted answers cannot be deleted. It would mean disregarding the efforts of users who had spent time composing their answers. Moreover, downvoted questions, even when they are deleted are still considered "poor" (however unfair that sentence is) and still count toward question bans.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 15:31
  • I'd say the question belongs on ELU, Marios. The subtleties involved (especially twinned noncount singular- and plural-form usages, and rare count usages) are certainly far beyond the 'introductory' level. Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 16:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .