Are 'Basketball', 'Football', and 'Badminton' Countable or Uncountable? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 24 March 2024)

Part 9

Basketball or Basketballs? Football or Footballs? Badminton or Badmintons? Are They Countable?

When used as the names of games, basketball, football, volleyball and the like are uncountable:

I love playing basketball.
I love playing basketballs.

Let's play football this afternoon.
Let's play footballs this afternoon.

Tom is really good at volleyball.
Tom is really good at volleyballs.

These words are countable only when they refer to the actual ball:

We need to buy a basketball.

Many footballs are made in Pakistan.

✅ We have to go and buy two more volleyballs for practice.

The entry for basketball in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Unlike basketball and football, which can refer to the game or the ball, badminton refers only to the game. Therefore, badminton is never used in the plural. The object that is hit over the net in the game of badminton is known as a shuttlecock.

We play badminton every day.
We play badmintons every day.

We need to buy a dozen shuttlecocks.
We need to buy a dozen badmintons.

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Also by Spencer Lam

Part 1: Should We Say 'A Tiger', 'The Tiger', or 'Tigers'?
Part 2: 'Relax' or 'Relax Oneself'?
Part 3: 'Exchange Program' or 'Exchanging Program'?
Part 4: 'Yours sincerely' or 'Yours faithfully'?
Part 5: Should We Say 'Take Bus', 'Take the Bus', or 'Take a Bus'?
Part 6: 'I Afraid' or 'I Am Afraid'?
Part 7: 'Date Someone' or 'Date with Someone'?
Part 8: A Missing Relative Pronoun
Part 10: 'Every Time' or 'Every Time When'?
Part 11: Should 'Mum' Be Capitalised? (Read this blog post for a more in-depth discussion of the topic.)
Part 12: 'Grammar' or 'Grammer'?

Examples from the Media

Michael Chow, who has been part of the pickup run since its inception, didn't even play basketball growing up in Toronto. Toronto Star (2022)

Will Michael Jordan, the new owner of the Washington Wizards, buy basketballs and uniforms for his team on-line? —The Globe and Mail (2000)

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston insists there is a "deliberate and conscious focus" on driving up girls' participation in football inside and outside of school. The Independent (2022)

In Pakistan, an estimated 15,000 child workers hand-stitch footballs—each ball has 32 panels, and each panel needs 690 stitches. The Guardian (2004)

Children are signing up for so-called alternative sports—such as badminton, triathlon and golf—threatening the dominance of traditional pastimes such as cricket or rugby. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2010)

Originally, balls of wool were used instead of shuttlecocks, and were particularly preferred by the upper classes in windy or wet conditions. Otago Daily Times (2015)


Choose the correct answer to complete each sentence.

1. Basketball is/Basketballs are sized on a numbered scale.

2. Tom used to play college basketball/basketballs.

3. Have you ever considered playing football/footballs as a career?

4. We need to buy a football/football.

5. Football is/Footballs are a national sport in England.

6. Workers at the factory use a machine to stitch football/footballs.

Answer Key

1. Basketballs are    2. basketball    3. football    4. a football    5. Football is    6. footballs

Other Real-World Examples of Misuse

Football is countable when it refers to the actual ball.
(Source: TWGHS Wong Fut Nam College)

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