When giving the meaning of content used as "the things that are contained in something," the OALD uses the plural form. Does that mean contents should always be used in that case?

He tipped the contents of the bag onto the table.

I understand that in the case of books (except when talking of sections of a book), speech, or programme, I should use content.

Surprisingly for me, the Corpus of Contemporary American English doesn't have any example of sentences containing "the content of the suitcase" or "the content of the bottle" or "the content of the bag."

I can find content used in the following phrases, though.

  • The content of the information
  • The content of the showdown between protagonist and antagonist
  • The content of the particular text
  • The content of the bill
  • The content of the error messages

1 Answer 1


It can be used in either plural or singular form. The singular form is used if what is within the container is uncountable/a mass noun. Either the singular or plural can be used to discuss unknown content.

The content of the film is not appropraite for children.
The clear plastic box showed its contents clearly.
The content of the bottle was a mix of apple and cranberry juice.

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