When learning English, it’s sometimes difficult to master which words we can pluralize and those we cannot. Some nouns only have plurals in certain situations, and that’s why you may wonder whether it’s correct to say “revenues.”
It is correct to say “revenues” when referring to types of revenue such as “sales revenues.” However, “revenue” is more often an uncountable noun, meaning that it doesn’t have a plural form, referring to money generated from business operations. Therefore, we can refer to “revenue” in both singular and plural forms.
This article will explore the word “revenue,” how it originated, what it means, and how we can use it. We’ll also consider countable and uncountable nouns in a broader sense to understand how they function in English.
What Does “Revenues” Mean?
The noun “revenue” refers to the total income produced from a particular source (source). Over time, it’s come to refer more specifically to regular income earned by a company or government in exchange for goods or services.
The word originated in the 15th century from the French revenue, meaning “a return.” Records indicate its use in terms of public income from the late 1600s (source).
More specifically, “revenue” is money someone generates from normal business operations. To calculate revenue, you multiply the average price of an item by the number of units sold.
Most governments have “departments of revenue” that are agencies with the task of handling taxes. In the context of governments, “revenue” is the funds they receive from taxes, fines, fees, etc. They, therefore, have formal bodies that manage this and refer to them as “revenue departments.”
The United States has the “Internal Revenue Service” or IRS. It sits under the Treasury Department and is the nation’s tax collection agency, administering the Internal Revenue Code Congress enacted (source). Sometimes we use the word “revenue” on its own to refer to the government department.
Should “Revenue” Be Plural or Singular?
Because it generally refers to gross income, we usually wouldn’t need to use a plural form. However, we may use the plural “revenues” any time we refer to more than one of a specific type of revenue as in “sales revenues” or “government revenues.”
Consider the sentences below that show revenue in both plural and singular.
- Our revenue fell 12% last year.
- Analysts forecast revenue of $12 billion for the new tax year.
- Sales revenues have fallen in recent years.
- There has been a $4 billion loss in government revenues.
- Online advertising is a good source of revenue.
- US Federal Tax revenue was $3.7 trillion in 2021.
We might also use the plural “revenues” when discussing two separate entities. For example, you could talk about “the revenues of Pepsi and Coca-Cola,” and it would be correct. Or, you could speak of comparing “California and Texas revenues.”
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Revenues”?
It is grammatically correct to say “revenues” if we refer to income types. For example, we may say, “Government revenues fell sharply following the outbreak of war.” However, we wouldn’t say, “Our revenues have increased this year.” In this instance, we would say, “Our revenue has increased this year.”
Grammatically, if we are talking about two separate types of revenue or two entities, it would be appropriate to use “revenues.” In all other cases, “revenue” is an uncountable noun, and we should use the singular “revenue.”
How Do You Use “Revenues”?
We use “revenue/s” as a noun to refer to money someone earned from selling services or products. The word functions as a common noun because it names a specific thing. As such, it serves as the subject of the sentence it occurs in.
Because it is a common noun, we never capitalize “revenue/s” unless it is in a name, such as the “Florida Department of Revenue” or the “Internal Revenue Service.”
We can qualify “revenue” with an adjective — e.g., marketing revenue, advertising revenue, etc. As a singular noun, “revenue” takes the same verb as “it,” and we would express the simple tenses as follows:
|Present||Our revenue for 2021 is $1 million.|
|Past||Our revenue for 2020 was $1 million.|
|Future||Our revenue for 2022 will be $1 million.|
When using “revenues” in the plural, it takes the same verb as “they.” We would express the simple tenses as follows:
|Present||Our sales revenues for 2021 are $1 million.|
|Past||Our sales revenues for 2020 were $1 million.|
|Future||Our sales revenues for 2022 will be $1 million.|
When Can You Use “Revenues”?
We use the plural “revenues” when referring to more than one of a specific type of income or more than one income stream. We use the singular “revenue” to refer to income generated from a particular source.
The word “revenue” implies earning the income in return for something, generally goods or services. This dates back to its original meaning of “a return” in French.
It would appear that Americans use “revenues” less than half as much as “revenue.” According to the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), English speakers use “revenue” more than double as often as they use “revenues” (source).
In What Context Can You Use “Revenues”?
We would generally use “revenue/s” in a business context to talk about income. It’s not a term that we would use in casual conversation unless we were talking about something business-related.
Usually, if we were discussing “revenue/s,” we would be having a conversation about profit or earnings, which would most often be in a work context. We might have a conversation that could look something like the following.
Person 1: How are our numbers looking for Q1?
Person 2: Very healthy! We’re expecting higher revenue this quarter.
Person 1: That’s great. I’d say we derived most of that from our advertising revenues.
Using “Revenues” in a Full Sentence
Let’s look at some examples that show how we would use “revenues” in a full sentence.
- The company has struggled to boost advertising revenues in recent years.
- Our sales revenues exceeded expectations.
- The company posted total revenues of $6.2 billion in 2021.
- Projected revenues are disappointing for the coming quarter.
- Much of their profit is derived from tax revenues.
When Not to Use “Revenues”
You should not use revenues if you are not referring to money gained by business operations. Revenue is not the same as cash flow or sales, and you can’t use the terms interchangeably.
The term is a very specific business term, and you should not use it unless you understand what it refers to. Also, you should not use the plural “revenues” if you are referring in general to income generated. This would be the singular “revenue.”
You wouldn’t use “revenues” in the context of government tax collection. Here, it is always the “department of revenue” or even simply “revenue.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Revenues”?
There are many alternatives that you can use instead of “revenues.” These include words such as “earnings,” “income,” “profits,” or “proceeds.” Unless you are positive that what you are referring to is indeed “revenue,” it may be better to choose one of these more generic terms.
Some other possible synonyms include the following:
It’s important to understand context when choosing a synonym because these words aren’t always interchangeable. Generally, “revenue” refers to total income generated, while “earnings” or “profit” refers more specifically to income generated after subtracting expenses.
If you’re in a business environment where your terms must be correct, then it would be worth understanding the exact definitions of these various terms to choose the right one at the right time.
“Revenue” as an Adjective
Sometimes, we can also use “revenue” similarly to an adjective. When we use a noun such as “revenue” to qualify other nouns, it is called an “attributive noun.” This means that it functions as an adjective to modify another noun. As an attributive noun, we can only use the singular “revenue” and never the plural “revenues.”
Here we may refer to terms such as “revenue trend” or “revenue challenges,” where we use “revenue” to describe the noun that follows it. For example, consider the following sentences where “revenue” functions as an attributive noun.
- The revenue trend appears to be turning downward.
- This embargo is resulting in plenty of revenue challenges.
- The revenue forecast is enclosed in the report.
- Let’s brainstorm our thoughts around revenue protection.
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
One of the issues in deciding whether it is correct to say “revenues” is identifying whether or not “revenue” is a countable noun. Most nouns are either countable or uncountable, and some, like “revenue,” can be both, depending on context.
As the name suggests, countable nouns are nouns that we can count. This refers to most nouns such as one ball, two balls, three balls, etc. Uncountable nouns, by contrast, are nouns we cannot count. These include nouns like “air,” “water,” or “love” (source).
Any noun that we can treat as a separate thing and, therefore, count noun is a countable noun. Consider the examples below.
- One car → three cars
- My friend → my three friends
- A dog → five dogs
Countable nouns can be singular or plural. We can also use “a/an” before them and many other determiners such as “some,” “few,” “these,” etc.
We view some nouns in English as a mass that we cannot separate or count. These include the following categories:
- Experiences and ideas (advice, information, news, work)
- Substances and materials (silver, water, sugar, rice)
- Words relating to the weather (snow, thunder, rain, sleet)
- Names for groups of things (equipment, rubbish, luggage, apparatus)
We cannot make these plurals, and we cannot place “a/an” before them (source).
Confusingly, there are some exceptions in English that always have a plural form but are still uncountable because we cannot count them. These include words like “pants,” “spectacles,” “shorts,” or “scissors.” To count these, we need to put other words in front, such as “two pairs of pants” or “a set of binoculars.”
It’s also important to remember that some uncountable nouns in English may be countable in other languages. Therefore, you always need to refer to a good dictionary to ensure you use the correct form of the noun in question.
Nouns That Can Be Both Countable and Uncountable
Like “revenue,” some nouns can be both countable and uncountable, depending on context. Usually, there’s a slight difference in meaning too. These include words such as the following:
|Iron||When referring to the appliance|
E.g., She bought three irons this year.
|When referring to the metal|
E.g., This statue is made of iron.
|Paper||When referring to an essay|
E.g., I have written two papers on John Donne.
|When referring to the material|
E.g., There is no paper in the copier.
|Work||When referring to a product|
E.g., Have you read all the works of William Shakespeare?
|When referring to the activity|
E.g., This will require many hours of work.
|Chicken||When referring to the animal|
E.g., She has four chickens in her garden.
|When referring to the food|
E.g., Let’s have chicken for dinner.
|Soda||When referring to the number of drinks|
E.g., I’ve catered two sodas per child.
|When referring to the drink in general|
E.g., Do you like soda?
Determiners to Use With Countable and Uncountable Nouns
When we want to talk about quantity, it’s simple with countable nouns. You can just say “one apple” or “five brothers” or “ten buildings.” However, with uncountable nouns, we use various expressions that are specific to the relevant measure of the noun we are referring to, as we demonstrate in the examples below.
- She bought a gallon of milk.
- That’s a valuable snippet of information.
- We had three inches of rain yesterday.
- She has arranged many pieces of furniture in the lounge.
We can use other determiners, such as “my,” “his,” “some,” “this,” or “that” freely with uncountable nouns. This article was written for www.strategiesforparents.com.
To learn more about countable and uncountable nouns, read our article “Food vs. Foods: What’s the Difference?”
Most nouns in English conform to simple rules and are either countable or uncountable. This makes it relatively easy to decide how to use them. But some, like “revenue,” are exceptions, and we have to understand nuances about them before we can master how to use them properly.
When used as an attributive noun, “revenue” is always singular. When used as a synonym for “income,” “revenue” is also singular. However, when used to describe types of income or different streams of income, then we can use the plural “revenues.”
Luckily, “revenue” is a word that is mostly used in a business context and not one that we’ll need to use often in everyday conversation.