The singular and the plural


The noun is a word expressing substance in the widest sense of the word.

There are some kinds of noun in English:

Common nouns: dog, man, table

Proper nouns: France, Madrid, Mrs. Smith, Tom

Abstract nouns: beauty, charity, courage, fear, joy

Material nouns: iron, snow, tea

Collective nouns: crowd, group, swarm, team

Class nouns: book, friend.

Collective nounsare subdivided into

1) Nouns used only in the singular (foliage is, machinery is)

2) Nouns which are singular in form but plural in meaning (police, cattle, people, gentry, clergy are)

3) Nouns that can be both singular and plural (crowd – crowds, fleet – fleets)

If a collective noun denotes a thing as a whole it is used with a singular verb. If it denotes a number of people or elements it is used with a plural verb.

e.g. The Russian team was playing well. The hockey team are coming tonight.

My family is small. My family are having tea now.

Nouns of material and abstract nouns

are uncountable and are generally used in the singular. But they can become class nouns to denote

Wine – wines (different sorts of the given material)

Glass – a glass (a thing made of the given material)

Beauty – a beauty (change the meaning – красотка), paper – a paper,

The Category of Number

The singular and the plural

1. The plural of a noun is usually made by adding ‘s’ to the singular: a day –days, a dog – dogs, a house – houses, a month – months.

2. If the noun ends in -s, -ss, -x, -sh, -ch, -tch, the plural is formed by adding ‘es’to the singular: a bus – buses, a box – boxes, a brush – brushes, a bench – benches, a match – matches.

3. If a noun ends in ‘o’preceded by a consonant, the plural is generally formed by adding ‘es’: a hero – heroes, a tomato – tomatoes, a volcano – volcanoes. But words of foreign origin or abbreviated words and proper names ending in ‘o’add ‘s’only: dynamo – dynamos, kimono – kimonos, piano – pianos, radio – radios, kilo – kilos, photo – photos, zoo – zoos, video – videos, Romeo – Romeos, Eskimo – Eskimos, Filipino – Filipinos.

4. Nouns ending in ‘y’following a consonant form their plural by dropping the ‘y’ and adding ‘ies’: a baby – babies, a fly – flies, a city – cities. But in proper names and compound nouns: Mary – Marys, Henry – Henrys, the Kennedys, stand-by – stand-bys.

Nouns ending in ‘y’following a vowel form their plural by adding ‘s’: a boy – boys, a day – days, a donkey – donkeys. But in the nouns ending in ‘quy’: soliloquy – soliloquies.

5. There are 13 nouns ending in ‘f’or‘fe’that drop the ‘f’or‘fe’and add ‘ves’: calf, elf, half, knife, leaf, life, loaf, self, sheaf, shelf, thief, wife, wolf: loaf –loaves, wolf – wolves.

The nouns hoof, scarf, wharf, dwarf take either ‘s’or ‘ves’ in the plural: hoofs or hooves, wharf or wharves.

6. There are 7 nouns which form the plural by changing the root vowel: man– men, woman – women, foot – feet, tooth – teeth, goose – geese, mouse – mice, louse – lice, and two nouns in the plural end in ‘en’:ox – oxen, child – children, and the noun brother in the religious context: brother – brethren.

7. Latin and Greek borrowings: on, um – a; is – es; us – i; a – ae. (phenomenon – phenomena, datum – data, crisis – crises, stimulus – stimuli, formula – formulae) but some of them may have a regular plural form (formula – formulas, memorandum – memoranda)

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