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I was wondering if "homework" is countable? I remember it is an uncountable noun when I learned English in middle school.

Suppose now I would like to ask my teacher to hand back my graded "homeworks" of last three times. How shall I ask him?

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4 Answers 4

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"Homework" is uncountable since it is treated as a general meaning not a particular item, like "work", "money" etc.

In your case, use "assignment" instead.

May I have my last three graded assignments back please?

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  • Both 'work' and 'money' are countified and have well-documented plural forms. 'Homeworks' has not got the same pedigree, though some dictionaries license it with caveats. Jun 22, 2019 at 18:44
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While I've seen the word homeworks used, I've never seen anything legitimate to indicate that it's correct. In any case, you can use the term homework assignments to refer to multiple homework items. That's a fairly common term, at least in American English.

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  • Thanks! But I don't ask my teacher for assignments, but my homework that I have worked out and handed to my teacher, and the homework is from last three times. How shall I ask him?
    – Tim
    May 22, 2011 at 1:39
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    @Tim: In American English, assignments is used for what you describe. In British English, homeworks is at least marginally acceptable — we used it at at least one school I went to, although I do remember it feeling awkward/slangy to me at first.
    – PLL
    May 22, 2011 at 8:10
  • What I’ve seen to indicate it is correct is its frequent use by native speakers
    – Casey
    Nov 20, 2021 at 22:37
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Traditionally, it is not countable, and most dictionaries list it as such.

However, the Merriam-Webster thesaurus (although not the Merriam-Webster dictionary) does have an entry for homeworks. Moreover, the plural form is used by at least some groups of educated native speakers.

One's best bet is to try to find out if one's audience belongs to a group that tends to use homeworks. If yes, then go ahead and use that word yourself. If not, rephrase as homework assignments or something similar.

Discussion

Merriam-Webster Thesaurus

Notice that the Merriam-Webster thesaurus has the following entry:

homeworks noun

plural of homework
Synonyms of homeworks

as in schoolwork

Synonyms & Near Synonyms for homeworks

schoolwork
assignments, lessons, reading
lectures
drills, exercises, practices
(also practises)
études, studies

(Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster dictionary entry does not give a plural form for homework.)

Examples of usage by educated native speakers

Such examples are not hard to find at all. For instance, American professors of linguistics, physics, and mathematics, at least, use the word homeworks quite frequently.

All of the examples below are from native speakers, as best as I can tell.

Here are five examples from linguistics professors:

Final grades will be calculated as follows: 30% for homeworks, 20% for the midterm, …
Penny Eckert and Ivan A. Sag, Linguistics 1: Introduction to Linguistics (Syllabus), 2011, here.
Late assignments are not accepted, but your two lowest-scoring homeworks will be dropped.
Adam Jardine, Introduction to Linguistic Theory (Honors) (Syllabus), 2018, here.
Homeworks are due at the beginning of class on the days indicated.
Emily M. Bender, Linguistics 461: Introduction to Syntax (Syllabus),here.
If turned in ​complete​, the homeworks will be graded 8 (well below average), 9 (average), or 10 (well above average​); but 0 if not done.
Anthony C. Woodbury, Linguistics 306: Introduction to the study of language (Syllabus),here.
Homeworks: 25% (lowest score dropped)
Dani Byrd and Toby Mintz, Ling 275: Language & Mind (Syllabus), 2006, here.

Here are five examples from physics professors:

Some homeworks are 'secret' assessment exercises: General GRE, Praxis and Major Field Tests
Richard Robinett, Penn State Physics Undergraduate Program Better Practices, 2010, p. 12 here.
Homeworks are like sports practice
Tom Moore , Teaching General Relativity with Tensors, 2006, here.
These concepts can be introduced to students through labs, homeworks, and discussion questions.
Brianna Billingsley and Cory Christenson, Incorporating Non-Western Contributions Into the Intro Physics Curriculum, 2019, here.
With their flexible design, PhET sims are used in many ways—as demos, homeworks, or inexpensive, accessible lab alternatives—and getting started is easy with our database of over 500 activities.
Katherine K. Perkins, Teaching Physics with PhET Simulations: Engaging Students and Increasing Learning (Abstract) 2012, p. 58 here.
In this talk, we will outline the reforms—including consensus learning goals, “clicker” questions, tutorials, modified homeworks, and more—and present evidence of the effectiveness of these reforms relative to traditional courses.
Katherine K. Perkins, Steven Pollock, Stephanie Chasteen, Steve Goldhaber, Rachel Pepper, Michael Dubson, and Paul Beale, Colorado's Transformed Upper-Division E&M and QM courses: Description and Results (Abstract) 2010, p. 119 here.

And here are five examples from mathematics professors:

Homeworks 1-3
David Blecher, here.
There will be two midterm exams, weekly homeworks, and a final exam.
Scott Sutherland, MAT 141: Honors Calculus 1 (syllabus), 2012, here.
MIT 3.016 Homeworks
W. Craig Carter, Mathematics for Materials Science and Engineers, MIT 3.016 (syllabus), 2011, (here). Click on the link 'Problem Sets and Solutions'; you will reach this page, which is where the word homeworks appears (in the page heading).
Homeworks (41/42 Track); Homeworks (51 Track)
Andrew Schultz, SSEA 2006: Mathematics Track, 2006, here.
All homeworks, except the first one, are due on Thursday at 3:30pm
Mike Clancy and David Wagner, CS 70, Spring 2005: Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science, 2005, here.

In searching for examples, I also saw examples of similar usage by professors of comparative literature, philosophy, computer science, chemistry, and sociology.

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  • Even Wiktionary fails to concede the plural form as a possibility, but this is doubtless an ongoing countification (and 10 years is a substantial time for the evolution to progress). Nov 20, 2021 at 16:42
  • American professors of physics and mathematics, at least, use the word homeworks... I wonder if I should take seriously pronouncements on quantum physics by English professors...
    – Greybeard
    Nov 20, 2021 at 18:18
  • @EdwinAshworth I just looked at Wiktionary, and it says 'usually uncountable, plural homeworks '. The edit that added that note was on 5 October 2015‎. So indeed, things change in ten years! Nov 21, 2021 at 17:18
  • Whoops, I had SimpleWiktionary, which I didn't know existed. Obviously homeworks is harder. Nov 21, 2021 at 17:53
  • @Greybeard Apologies if your comment was meant as a joke, but if it wasn't (and for the benefit of those who don't take it as a joke), the answer is, no you shouldn't. And indeed, conversely, if physics or math professors were to start making 'pronouncements' about whether a particular word is acceptable English, you shouldn't take that seriously, either. But that's not what's going on in my answer. My answer simply points out that there is a U.S.-wide, loosely connected group of educated native speakers who rather frequently and unselfconsciously use homeworks in day-to-day life. Nov 21, 2021 at 18:38
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Ask for "items" or "pieces" of homework.

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