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Grammar & Structure  » Nouns-Singular, plural,and collective nouns

Singular, plural, and collective nouns 

Main points
1-) Singular nouns are used only in the singular, always with a determiner.
2-) Plural nouns are used only in the plural, some with a determiner.
3-) Collective nouns can be used with singular or plural verbs.
1-) Some nouns are used in particular meanings in the singular with a determiner, like count nouns, but are not used in the plural with that meaning. They are often called ‘singular nouns’.
Some of these nouns are normally used with ‘the', because they refer to things that are unique.
 air                daytime       moon              sky
 country         end             past                sun
 countryside   future          sea                 wind
 dark             ground         seaside           world
 * The sun was shining.
* I am scared of the dark.
Other singular nouns are normally used with ‘a’ because they refer to things that we usually talk about one at a time.
bath          go           ride         snooze
chance      jog          run          start
drink         move       shower     walk
fight          rest         smoke      wash
* I went upstairs and had a wash.
* Why don’t we go outside for a smoke?
2-) Some nouns are used in particular meanings in the plural with or without determiners, like count nouns, but are not used in the singular with that meaning. They are often called ‘plural nouns’.
* His clothes looked terribly dirty.
* Troops are being sent in today.
Some of these nouns are always used with determiners.
activities       feelings       pictures       travels
authorities     likes           sights
* I went to the pictures with Tina.
* You hurt his feelings.
Some are usually used without determiners.
airs            goods            riches
expenses   refreshments
* Refreshments are available inside.
* They have agreed to pay for travel and expenses.
WARNING:  ‘Police’ is a plural noun, but does not end in -s.
The police were informed immediately.
3-) A small group of plural nouns refer to single items that have two linked parts. They refer to things that people wear or tools that people use.
glasses       pyjamas       —                   scales
jeans          shorts           binoculars     scissors
knickers      tights           pincers          shears
pants          trousers        pliers             tweezers
* She was wearing brown trousers.
* These scissors are sharp.
You can use ‘a pair of’ to make it clear you are talking about one item, or a number with ‘pairs of’ when you are talking about several items.
* I was sent out to buy a pair of scissors.
* Liza had given me three pairs of jeans.
Note that you also use ‘a pair of with words such as ‘gloves’, ‘shoes’, and ‘socks’ that you often talk about in twos.
4-) With some nouns that refer to a group of people or things, the same form can be used with singular or plural verbs, because you can think of the group as a unit or as individuals. Similarly, you can use singular or plural pronouns to refer back to them. These nouns are often called ‘collective nouns’.
army            enemy             group            staff
audience      family               herd             team
committee    flock                navy                —
company      gang                press            data
crew            government       public           media
* Our little group is complete again.
* The largest group are the boys.
* Our family isn’t poor any more.
* My family are perfectly normal.
The names of many organizations and sports teams are also collective nouns, but are normally used with plural verbs in spoken English.
* The ABC is showing the programme on Saturday.
* The ABC are planning to use the new satellite.
* Liverpool is leading 1-0.
* Liverpool are attacking again.
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