Unusual Noun Forms

Noting some unusual noun-verb agreement

 

 

 

Plural Only Agreement

BASE WORD FORM

These plural-only nouns are not marked with the expected final -s.

Funny PeoplePeople are funny.

*A people is at the door.
A person is at the door.
Two people are at the door.
Some people are at the door.
except: They were a kinder, more caring people. (group)

the police The police are coming. (group noun)

*A police is at the door.
*Two police are at the door.
Two police officers / policemen are at the door.  

CattleThe cattle are in the field.

ANIMAL FOR FOOD: livestock, poultry

*Six cattle are in the field.  (Six head of cattle…) / A thousand cattle are on this ranch. / *This cattle is from our ranch. / These cattle are from our ranch.  

 

WORD FORM ENDING WITH  –S

These plural-only nouns have no singular form.  (Note the nouns consist of paired or symmetrical parts.)

pants Pants are bright .

CLOTHING: jeans, trousers, breeches, overalls, briefs, corduroys, slacks, knickers, shorts, etc.

*A pant / A pair of pants are on the floor. / This pant leg needs shortening.

scissors Scissors are useful.

TOOLS: pliers, tweezers, tongs, shears, snippers, forceps, etc.

*A scissor is useful.
A pair of scissors are useful.
This scissor blade needs sharpening.

pants Glasses are available in many styles.

EYEWEAR: goggles, binoculars, spectacles, etc.

*A glass is available in many styles. / A pair of glasses was left on the counter. / This glass lens needs replacing.

suds Suds are coming out of the washing machine.

*A sud is on my beer.
A bubble is on my nose.

 

 

livestock (n.) – collective noun for animals raised for food
poultry (n.) – collective noun for birds raised for food
cattle (n.) – collective noun for: bulls, cows, steer, heifers, etc.

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.
Related page: Singular form (no change for plural form)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singular-Only

Noun forms with singular agreement

 

 

 

Singular Agreement

BASE WORD FORM

Noncount nouns are singular-only nouns which usually have no plural form. See exceptions. One could also argue that a unique noun is singular-only in actual usage (though a plural could be formed morphologically.) 

a bowl of riceRice is delicious.  (all noncount nouns)

equator*The equator is equidistant from the poles. 

(Singular in usage only.)

UNIQUE NOUNS: equator, earth, universe, etc.

lab technicianIt is difficult to catch a mouse

It is  [adjective / noun] to…

    It is +adj + infinitive.
   

 
 
WORD FORM ENDING WITH  –S

For some words, the -s is part of the lexical base of the word. It is not a plural marker. The agreement with the verb is singular.

newspaperThe news is good today!  

the measles Measles is a serious illness.

ILLNESSES: shingles, mumps, rabies, hives, hiccups.

teacher Mathematics is an important course.

CLASSES: economics, physics, linguistics, gymnastics, ceramics 

These words have singular forms: classics, statistics, acoustics, ethics.

world series game The World Series is played in October.

OTHER: series, species

(The final -s is part of the word and not a plural ending.)
 

BilliardsBilliards is a game of skill.

GAMES: checkers, darts, cards, dominoes, ninepins

 

(Huddleston 3.2.3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Same Word From

Singular or Plural

 

 

 

Both Singular and Plural

BASE WORD FORM

The base word form is singular or plural in agreement.   A plural form may be used to express varieties.  See Plural–Varieties   This is also called "base plural" form.

deerA deer is in the field.
Two deer
are in the field.

sheepA sheep is walking on the road.
Two sheep are walking on the road(also: fish, deer)   

fishA fish is hiding behind the rock.
Three fish
are swimming with scuba tanks.

See Irreg Plural Nouns

aircraftAn aircraft is overhead.
Aircraft
are overhead.

An aircraft is overhead.

 

 

WORD FORM ENDING WITH  –S

The the final -s word form is singular or plural in agreement.

kennels The kennels is located in a building nearby.
The kennels are kept clean.

headquarters, barracks, crossroads, rapids, golf links

There are several means of solving the problem.
The telephone is a means of communication.

 

 

 

(Huddleston 5 §3.2.3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign Words

Other word forms

 

 

 

Foreign Singular /Plural Markers

BASE FORM

A  number of nouns of foreign origin do not form a plural from a base form + s.  The singular form is inflected (marked) differently from the plural form.  Singular markers include -us, -om, -on, -ium, -ix, -ex, -is.

cactusA cactus is able to live in the desert.

bacterium, index, phenomenon, child, datum, analysis, etc.

 

 

OTHER WORD FORM ENDINGS

Plural markers include -i, -a, -ae, ices, -en, -es

cactiCacti are able to live in the desert.

bacteria, indices, phenomena, children, data, analyses, etc.

 

See Borrowed Words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Cases

Language, nationalities, and organizations

 

 

 

Language — People

BASE WORD FORM

The noun for a language is singular in agreement.

English spoken hereEnglish is spoken here.
LANGUAGE: Spanish Japanese, Chinese,
Portuguese, Chinese, Swahili, etc.

 

THE – BASE WORD FORM

The collective noun for a group or nationality is plural in agreement. 

The EnglishThe English are a proud people.
PEOPLE: The Japanese, The Chinese,The Portuguese, The Spaniards, etc.

 

Also see Articles - Nationality  | 

"The" Group — We often use the + adjective (without a noun) to talk about an unspecific group of people who are in a particular physical or social condition (the poor, the young, the blind).

 

 

 

Group Nouns

WORD FORM–S  IS MASS NOUN

The group name refers to all the members as a whole. (noncount noun) It takes all to win.

Boy ScoutsThe Boy Scouts is a large organization.

Organizations: The United Nations, The Democrats, The Lyons Club, etc.
 

US Map The United States is a large country.

The Philippines, the Maldives, the Netherlands, etc.

Clock twenty minutesTwenty minutes is a short time.

Quantities of time: 24 hours, 7 days a week,
Four plus four is eight. One and one is two.

Three hundred and sixty five days equals a year.

But not percentages or fractions.  See Phrase Noun Agr   

WORD FORM–S IS COUNT NOUN

The group name refers to each member. (count noun) Each person does his or her best to win.

scouts The boy scouts are selling Christmas trees.

Refers to members, individuals.

congress The United States are constantly disagreeing.

Refers to members, individuals, governors

a child in "time out" These twenty minutes are passing slowly.

Refers to units.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clause Agreement

Subject position

 

 

 

Mostly Singular

SINGLE CLAUSE AS SUBJECT

A clause (finite or nonfinite) may take the  subject position.  In most cases the clause is singular in agreement.

THAT

sleep walkerThat he is tired is obvious to everyone.

 

        See That–Subj Clauses   

WH– CLAUSES

speakerWhat she said was amusing to everyone.
Where she went
When she smiled
How she laughed
Whether or not she was in love

 See What– Subj Clauses   

GERUND

DancingDancing is a lot of fun. 
Gerunds (activities) : running, swimming, cooking, sleeping, etc.
Infinitives (activities) : to run, to swim, to cook, to sleep, etc.

  See Gerund as Subject   

INFINITIVE

danceTo dance is divine.

See Infinitive as Subject. 

COMPOUND CLAUSES AS SUBJECT

When one or more clauses take the subject position (clauses coordinated with and) the agreement is plural.

THAT

That he is tired and that he sleepwalks are two reasons he cannot be left alone.

 

       

WH– CLAUSES

What she said and what she did were amusing to everyone.

GERUND

 Dancing and singing are a lot of fun. 
 

INFINITIVE

To dance and to sing are divine.

 

 

obvious (adj.) – easily seen or recognized

 

 

 

 

 

 

List Agreement

Nouns in a series

 

 

 

Subject – verb agreement with a series of nouns

SINGULAR ITEM
OR

packageA package is on the desk.

 

 multiple singular items in a series 

A package, envelope, or box is on the desk. (I can't remember which.)

MULTIPLE SINGULAR-ITEM LIST
AND

a pencil, a notebook, and an eraserA pencil, a notebook and an eraser are on the desk.

 

 

A package, an envelope, and  a box are on the desk.

 

 

 

 

 

There agreement with a series of nouns

CLOSEST ITEM IS SINGULAR

There does not have a particular subject-verb agreement.  The agreement is with the closest noun.

There is a book, some pencils, and a notepad on my desk. (En-US)

There are a book, some pencils, and a notepad on my desk.  (En-Br) 

CLOSEST ITEM IS PLURAL

There agreement differs with dialectal usage.  In Br-English, plural agreement is used if the closest noun is plural or if there are multiple items in a series.  In US English, plural agreement is with the closest noun.

There are some pencils, books, and notepads on my desk.

 

 

Also agreement with There – Existence

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Baseball

bat and ball
 

 

Is the agreement correct?

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1.
Playing baseball and football is my favorite thing to do

   

2.
My baseball team, The Giants, is made up of fifteen guys.

   

3.
Our coach is from the Philippines which are pretty far away from where we live.

      

4.
The people on my team are funny.

        

5.
The 90 minutes that we play together are good workout. 

     

workout (n.)  – exercise

6.
The police is one of our supporters.   
     

7.
They help buy our uniforms which are very nice.

     

8.
What we need to buy next are some new equipments.

      

9.
Our bat, ball, and catcher's mask needs replacement.   

   

10.
We hope to win the Little League World Series, which are coming up soon.  

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Next Season's Toys

baby handlesDigitl Piggy Bank The couple
 

 

Complete the sentence.    

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11.


sophisticated – grown up; adult-like

12.

13.


reunite (v.) – bring together again
campaign (n.) – actions that we take to get attention in marketing or politics

14.



celebrity (n.) – well-known person, usually living

15.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

English Sheep

sheepdog

Sheep with Sheep Dog
 

 

Read for Errors

The English is well-known for raising sheeps.  There are over sixty different breeds of sheeps in the UK. Sheep has been raised in England for hundreds of years. Ninety per-cent of the sheep is raised for wool. Annually, from two to thirty pounds of wool are produced by one sheep. The wool from one sheep is called "a fleece", the wool from many sheep, "a clip". Genetics are one factor that determine how much wool a sheep will produce. Lamb produces less wool than mature animal.

While sheeps and goats have many similarities, they are different species. Telling the difference between a sheep and goat are easy — look at their tails.  A goat's tail goes up but a sheep's tail hangs down. Most goat grow hair that do not require shearing or combing. Most sheep grow wool that need to be sheared annually. One sheep, named "Shrek", got out of its paddock and was not found for seven years.  When the owner found and sheared Shrek, he produced 68 pound of wool, enough to make 20 men’s suits.

breed (n.) – type of animal

raise (v.) – care for, look after

annually (adv.) – happening every year

wool (n.) –  the soft coat of a sheep

produce (v.) – make, grow, create

genetics (n.) – the study of genes (the part of a cell in a living thing that controls what it looks like, how it grows, and how it develops)

factor (n.) – part, one of several things that influence or cause a situation

mature (adj.) – fully grown

shear (v.) – to cut the wool off a sheep

paddock (n.) – small exercise pen for farm animals, especially horses

owner (n.) – person who possesses, has, owns something

 

 

 

 

Edit for errors.

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16.
The English is well-known for raising sheeps.  There are over sixty different breeds of sheeps in the UK.


17.
Sheep has been raised in England for hundreds of years. Ninety per-cent of the sheep is raised for wool.  raise (v.) – care for, look after


18.
Annually, from two to thirty pounds of wool are produced by one sheep. The wool from one sheep is called "a fleece", the wool from many sheep, "a clip".

annually (adv.) – happening every year
wool (n.) –  the soft coat of a sheep
produce (v.) – make, grow, create


19.
Genetics are one factor that determine how much wool a sheep will produce. Lamb produces less wool than mature animal.

genetics (n.) – the study of genes (the part of a cell in a living thing that controls what it looks like, how it grows, and how it develops)
factor (n.) – part, one of several things that influence or cause a situation
mature (adj.) – fully grown


20.
While sheeps and goats have many similarities, they are different species. Telling the difference between a sheep and goat are easy — look at their tails.  A goat's tail goes up but a sheep's tail hangs down.


21.
Most goat grow hair that do not require shearing or combing. Most sheep grow wool that need to be sheared annually.
shear (v.) – to cut the wool off a sheep


22.
One sheep, named "Shrek", got out of its paddock and was not found for seven years.  When the owner found and sheared Shrek, he produced 68 pound of wool, enough to make 20 men’s suits.
paddock (n.) – small exercise pen for farm animals, especially horses
owner (n.) – person who possesses, has, owns something