Nouns are an integral part of any sentence and, to most tertiary students, are seemingly easy to use and understand. However, the fact is that mistakes in the use of nouns are still commonly found in students’ writing.
Nouns denoting concepts and opinions may not be ‘counted’ in English, unlike
in many other languages (including Chinese). The following material will help
you understand how nouns can be used correctly.
Countable nouns are nouns that have both singular and plural forms. The following nouns, which are often used in academic writing, are countable:
e.g. I have read two recent articles investigating the issue of social security and its effects on government expenditure.
Uncountable nouns have no plural form and therefore take a singular verb. The following nouns are usually uncountable:
e.g. A great deal of research on the nature of AIDS has been conducted and it is encouraging to know that we have made some good progress.
The following nouns are conceived as plural rather than singular and so have only the plural form:
e.g. The police are looking for larger premises to build the new headquarters.
Note: The word 'means' looks like a plural. This may be misleading, because 'means' is used both as a singular and a
e.g. "Language is more than a means of communication." (a means = one means = singular)
e.g. "There are at least four means of transport suitable for you".
The word means is also found in the common phrase a means to an end, which means a special method you use to achieve your goal. For example, 'Some people claim that torturing terrorist prisoners for information is an acceptable means to an end, if the end is saving lives.'
When you use a collective noun such as government and data you can choose either a singular verb or a plural verb depending on whether you want to emphasise the noun as a single unit or as a number of individuals or items.
These are some of the most common collective nouns:
public committee media staff team audience group
You should also be aware that some nouns can be both countable and uncountable, depending on the intended meaning. If you want to refer to the thing in general, it is uncountable; if you want to refer to a particular instance of it, it becomes countable.
Other words in this category include:
conflict service discussion language business agreement
There are 10 statements. Some of them are correct, but others are not.
Last updated on 04 July 2009.
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