I have already searched this but couldn't find anything helpful. So finally, I need to ask it here. Recently, I have come across the following sentence:

I want a paper.

And it should be:

I want a piece of paper.

Why do we use "a piece"?

  • 2
    Because "paper" is a noncount noun in the sence of "material". It can be a count noun in the sense of "a (scientific) article". Thus, "I want a paper" can mean "I want to obtain a scientific publication, an aricle". If you want it to mean "I want a rectangular sheet or a piece of wood-based white material", you would say "I want a (sheet, piece) of paper". Nov 21, 2015 at 16:25
  • 2
    Could you please tell us the context this sentence appeared in?
    – user230
    Nov 21, 2015 at 16:33
  • @snailboat - To write an information during phone conversation.
    – Vibhu
    Nov 21, 2015 at 16:37
  • @snailboat : Yes, it is said by a non-native speaker.
    – Vibhu
    Nov 21, 2015 at 16:39
  • 1
    Yes, Vibhu. "Paper" is a multiple-sense word. When you use it in the structure "piece of paper", it's a mass noun. Nov 21, 2015 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


The word paper is considered to be an uncountable noun when it refers to the thin material that you use for writing, printing, drawing on, or wrapping things. If you refer to a single sheet of paper, you call it a sheet of paper or, if it's small, a piece of paper.

However, it's a countable noun when it has some information written on it or when it means a newspaper.

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