Gear: Countable or Uncountable? | Mastering Grammar

Is Gear Countable or Uncountable?

The noun gear can be countable or uncountable, depending on its meaning.

When gear refers to a device in a machine or vehicle used for transmitting motion, such as the one shown in the picture below, it is countable. 

In this sense, it has a plural form (gears) and can be used with numbers:

✅ There are several gears in the clock mechanism.

✅ The bicycle has 12 gears for different terrains.

✅ The machine was malfunctioning because one of the gears was broken.

✅ The watchmaker carefully examined each tiny gear in the timepiece.

✅ The toy robot's gears were visible through its transparent casing.

However, when gear refers to equipment or clothing needed for a particular activity, it is uncountable. In this sense, it takes a singular verb and does not have a plural form:

✅ All his camping gear fits into one large backpack.
All his camping gears fit into one large backpack.

✅ We packed all our hiking gear for the weekend trip.
❌ We packed all our hiking gears for the weekend trip.

✅ The firefighter's gear is designed to withstand extreme heat.
The firefighter's gears are designed to withstand extreme heat.

✅ The diver checked his gear thoroughly before the dive.
❌ The diver checked his gears thoroughly before the dive.

✅ The athletes stored their gear in the locker room before the game.
The athletes stored their gears in the locker room before the game.

To quantify gear when it refers to equipment or clothing, you can use expressions such as piece(s) of gear, item(s) of gear, or set(s) of gear:

✅ My hiking backpack is more than just a piece of hiking gear; it is a trusty companion on my exploration journey.

✅ He bought three pieces of camping gear for the trip.

✅ A horse saddle is an item of gear used for riding and controlling a horse.

✅ We need several items of gear for the expedition.

✅ They packed two sets of hiking gear for the weekend.

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Examples from the Media

Mr. Chenoworth has been accused of inserting a paint scraper and two metal studs into one of the gears aboard the ship, causing a three and half month delay of its departure to Southeast Asia. —The Washington Post (1972)

The clock is powered by gravity. Weights propel the machine, but the spinning of the gears—and therefore the rate the clock's hands move—is regulated by an escapement, a metal mechanism with brass arms and levers that interacts with the pendulum. —The Age (2013)

"Let me get you safety boots and a hard hat." Words I don't often hear when visiting new home models around the city but nonetheless, when Kevin Harper, High Rise Development Manager of Minto Communities, greeted me outside the new UpperWest building, our first stop was a hut to change into some safety gear. Ottawa Sun (2016)

The next day the arborist packed his car with clothes, climbing gear and a chainsaw then made the 20-hour drive from NSW to South Australia to ferry across to the fire-ravaged islet. —Daily Mail (2020)


Choose the correct option to complete each sentence.

1. We need to replace all the damaged gear/gears in the watch.

2. The soldiers were instructed to keep their gear/gears clean and ready at all times.

3. Camping gear/gears can be quite expensive these days.

4. His fishing gear/gears included rods, reels, and tackle boxes.

5. The gearbox contains several gear/gears that control the vehicle's speed.

6. The scuba diver checked his gear/gears carefully before entering the water.

Answer Key

1. gears    2. gear    3. gear    4. gear    5. gears    6. gear

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