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THE GRAMMAR PAGE: Singular and plural nouns


Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 9/2018 vom 29.08.2018

ADRIAN DOFF presents and explains this key point of grammar with notes on a short dialogue.


MEDIUM PLUS

Dialogue

Mike lost his luggage when he flew back from his holiday. He is telling his friend Rob about it.

Rob: So, is thereany news1 about yourluggage2 ? Have they foundit2 yet?

Mike: No. I phoned the airline again today, but all they said was they’d get in touch if they hadany information2 .The staff were3 really unhelpful. Meanwhile, half of my ...

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Vorheriger Artikel
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Mike: No. I phoned the airline again today, but all they said was they’d get in touch if they hadany information2 .The staff were3 really unhelpful. Meanwhile, half of myclothes4 are still missing. I had to go out and buysome new jeans4 and anotherpair of trousers5 .

Rob: But surely they can easily trace it using the baggage tag.

Mike: Well, that’s the trouble. The baggage tag was on my boarding pass, which I left on the plane. I did describe the suitcase to them, though. I said it was black and medium-sized and had clothes in it, but I couldn’t remember the make.

Rob: Well, no wonder theairline haven’t6 found it. There must be millions of suitcases like that.

Explanations

1. The wordnews is always in theplural form (you cannot say “a news”), but the word takes asingular verb (“the news is”, not “the news are”).
2. Nouns likeluggage andinformation areuncountable in English and, therefore,singular . You can’t say “luggages” or “informations”; and you saysome /any information , not “an information”.
3. Nouns such asstaff , which represent a group of people, aresingular in form, but in British English, they usually take aplural verb (the staff were unhelpful).
4. Nouns likeclothes ,jeans andtrousers are always used in theplural (you can’t say “a clothe” or “a jean”).
5. To make them singular, you can add the phrasea(n)… of… (a pair of trousers, an item of clothing).
6. This is another example of a singular noun that refers to a group of people and is used with aplural verb (the airline haven’t…).

Remember!

Many nouns in English areuncountable and, therefore,singular :
food and drink: water, bread, fruit, honey, butter
⋅abstract nouns: information, research, advice
⋅collective nouns: luggage, baggage, transport, equipment, accommodation In British English, nouns that refer to agroup of people are singular in form but often take a plural verb:
⋅group, crowd, audience, government, company Some words for clothes are used only in theplural :
⋅trousers, jeans, shorts, tights, pants, (sun)glasses The wordnews has a plural form but is used with a singular verb:
⋅The news is good.

Beyond the basics

To make uncountable words countable, you can add the phrasea(n) … of … :
⋅a pair of glasses / jeans / shorts
⋅a loaf / piece / slice of bread
⋅a bar of chocolate / soap ⋅⋅a piece of information / advice / luggage
⋅a jar of honey / jam
⋅a carton of yoghurt / milk
⋅a bottle of water

Exercise

Which of the following sentences are correct? Change the ones that are incorrect.

A. It’s six o’clock. Here are the news.

B. Do you have any informations about English courses?

C. My trousers are too small for me.

D. We need to buy a bread.

E. She gave me a useful advice.

F. The staff at the hotel were very friendly.