Papers and paper

People use papers for a variety of purposes.

OK folks, this is another countable / uncountable problem.

Paper – countable

Every time I use the countable form of ‘paper’, I’m talking about paper material that has already been modified in some way and applied for a primary function.

  • I’m just going to the shop to buy a paper.
  • A newspaper – paper that has been printed on primarily to convey news to readers. Admittedly, I could roll up a newspaper and use it to beat my dog, but that is not its primary function.
  • Tomorrow staff will count the ballot papers.
  • Separate pieces of paper with printing on them, used to gather votes in an election. It’s difficult to imagine another use for these papers, which will eventually be either destroyed or recycled.
  • I roll my own cigarettes using Rizla papers.
  • Separate pieces of paper that have been cut, folded and packaged primarily for smokers so that they can roll their own cigarettes.

Rizla cigarette rolling papers

Paper – uncountable

In each of the following examples ‘paper’ has no primary function. It is a raw material that will later be manufactured into a more specific product intended for a specific purpose.

  • Paper is made from trees.
  • Many stores sell recycled paper and plastic products.
  • I made this bowl out of paper!

papier mache bowl

Notice that the newspaper used to make this bowl no longer has its original primary function. It’s no longer meant for news reading!


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OK I understand

People use for a variety of purposes. You can print on . You can also create interesting shapes with . can also be recycled. For example if you have any old that you’ve finished reading you can create interesting ‘papier mache’ models. In papier mache, cut-up strips of can be glued together in layers to form a new shapes. And if you’re wondering how to burn those wet leaves in the garden, put some scrap under them first to get a fire started.

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