In this article, the underlying causes for the apparent mismatch between land cover and land use in the context of wide-scale land change modelling are explored. A land use-land cover (LU/LC) ratio is proposed as a relevant landscape characteristic. The one-to-one ratio between land use and land cover is revoked by the multiple uses related to one cover type. The introduction of a secondary land use function next to the main primary function is relevant for the characterization of the resulting land cover. Secondary land use poses certain constraints to the productivity of the primary land use. Hence, the secondary land use has implicit land claims and requirements. We propose to relate the LU/LC ratio to the multi-functional nature of land cover, so that trade-off analyses between the primary use and the secondary use become possible. This will allow more realistic land cover projections in large-scale European land use assessment models.