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2. Singular and Plural Nouns

A singular noun refers to just one person, animal, thing or place while a plural noun represents more than one person, animal, thing or place. Nouns are either singular or plural. Most plural nouns have an -s added to their endings. Other plural nouns do not follow this same ending.

Singular    Plural How the plural is formed
daughter daughters    By adding –s
class classes By adding –es to nouns ending –s
brush brushes By adding –es to nouns ending –sh
watch watches By adding –es to nouns ending –ch
box boxes By adding –es to nouns ending –x
potato potatoes By adding –es to nouns ending –o
piano pianos By adding –s to nouns ending –o
baby babies By changing –y to – ies
key keys By adding –s to some nouns ending –y
leaf leaves By changing –f to – ves
knife knives By changing –fe to – ves
roof roofs By adding –s to some nouns ending –f
safe safes By adding –s to some nouns ending –fe
tooth teeth By changing vowels
ox oxen By adding –en
child children By adding –ren
deer deer Some nouns have same singular and plural

(For more on singular and plural nouns, see List 1)

 

There are nouns that are always plural and take a plural verb.

Jeans, knickers, panties, pants, pyjamas, shorts, tights, trousers, and underpants
Pincers, pliers, scissors, shears, tongs
Clogs, sandals, slippers, and sneakers
Glasses (spectacles), binoculars
  • These trousers are not mine.
  • Pliers are a handy tool.
  • My garden shears trim the hedge very well.
  • My glasses are used only for reading.

 

"A pair of" can be used with the above plural nouns and take a singular verb.

  • This pair of purple trousers does not match your yellow jacket.
  • These knives do not cut well. A new pair of stainless steel scissors is what I need.

 

Other nouns that are always plural.

  • Clothes: My clothes need to be washed but I don't have the time.
  • Earnings: Earnings in the agricultural sector have increased by 5% in the fourth quarter.
  • Cattle: Cattle are reared for their meat or milk.
  • Police: Police are charging him with the murder of the princess.
  • People: People in general are not very approachable. (Peoples when used in the plural (i.e. with '–s') refers to peoples from more than one race or nation, e.g. the peoples of Asia)
  • Football team: Liverpool are a very successful football team. (But Liverpool is a great city.)

 

Nouns which are plural in form but take a singular verb

The following plural nouns are used with a singular verb as they are treated as singular:

  • Athletics, economics, gymnastics, linguistics, mathematics, mechanics, news, numismatics, measles, mumps, physics, politics and pyrotechnics
    • Economics: Economics was my favourite subject at school.
    • News – The good news is that we have all been invited.
    • Diseases such as mumps, measles, etc: An infectious illness, mumps was common among children.

 

  • Measurements and amounts that are considered as a single unit:
    • One hundred years is a century.
    • Ten kilometres is a long distance.
    • Twenty dollars is not enough to buy a good shirt.
    • Seven days in prison is all he got for shoplifting.