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How to use plural nouns correctly

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How to use plural nouns correctly

Unread postby Weibing » Sat Dec 22, 2007 3:19 pm

I find it not easy to use plural nouns correctly.

1. ...patients with disease...
2. ...patients with diseases...

Which is correct or both? If both OK, then is there any difference in meaning between the two expressions?

3. ...sport center...
4. ...sports center...

Usually, we have a singular noun before another noun as a modifier. But it's also true that we also use a plural noun or plural nouns as a modifier sometimes. Then, when should we choose a singular/plural noun or what's the difference?

Your feedback would be highly appreciated!
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Re: How to use plural nouns correctly

Unread postby oldie » Wed Dec 26, 2007 1:23 pm

Hi Weibing,

Maybe the easiest way to help with your first question is to insert "a" before "disease" in #1 and "many" before "diseases" in #2.

So:"... patients with a disease ..." would almost always mean (say 95% of the time) "more than 1 patient with THE SAME disease". eg There were 5 patients with gastroenteritis in the clinic today.

"... patients with many diseases..." would mean (probably 99.9% of the time) "more than 1 patient with MORE THAN 1 disease". eg There were 5 patients with different diseases in the clinic today.

For your second question, in North American English, "sport" is nearly always (99.9%) singular, so a "Sport Center" would mean a place for only 1 sport. In other native English speaking countries, "sport" is sometimes meant as plural. So a "Sport Centre" could be a place for more than 1 sport. In both instances, a "Sports Center/Centre" would be a place for more than 1 sport. Also in both instances, the place will almost always be indoor, as opposed to an outdoor facility.

Hope this helps!
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Re: How to use plural nouns correctly

Unread postby Kevin Vosper » Thu Dec 27, 2007 1:45 pm

Dear Weibing

I think oldie has really answered the question but two other points are quite interesting when looking at countable/uncountable nouns.
Firstly, some nouns change their meanings when they change from countable to uncountable. Examples include:

Glass, e.g. "In the modern world glass is a very important material in many buildings." (uncountable-refers to the material).

And "can you get me a glass I want a drink of milk." (countable-refers to an object).

Also paper "Can you get some paper for the photocopier?" (uncountable-refers to an uncertain number of sheets of paper).

And "If you're going to the shops can you get me a paper?" (countable-refers to a newspaper).

Be careful with countable/uncountable nouns in English since a noun which is countable in your first language may be uncountable in English or an uncountable noun in your first language may be countable in English. My favourite is the word "money." It must seem obvious to anyone that you can count money but in fact in English you cannot. You can count notes and coins but the word "money" is uncountable. Even native speakers are amazed when you tell them this.

Merry Christmas to everybody at English Club and have a great New Year.

Kevin
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Re: How to use plural nouns correctly

Unread postby Weibing » Thu Dec 27, 2007 3:12 pm

Hi oldie and Kevin,

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Many thanks for your excellent responses! And I would add another interesting point: the plural form of uncountable nouns. It's not so easy a job to properly put an 's' after an uncountable noun.

1. ...many advanced equipment...
2. ...many advanced equipments...

'Equipment' is an uncountable noun in English. Which is correct?

Maybe you could give many more other examples to show the uncertainty using plural forms. When you write something, you'll inevitably use a lot of plural nouns, but might subconsciously, not giving much attention to the plural nouns you are putting in. I'd admit I don't until recently! Do we put every 's' correctly?!

I'm looking forward to seeing more input/inputs!

Best wishes,

Weibing
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Re: How to use plural nouns correctly

Unread postby Josef » Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:44 am

Equipment is uncountable and therefore does not have a plural form. Virtually all uncountable nouns are treated as singular. So do not add "s" to an uncountable noun. A few uncountable nouns (such as "news") have an "s" at the end, but that is their normal (singular) form.

Many is used with countable nouns. Much is used with uncountable nouns. So you would need to say:

much advanced equipment

(or depending on context this might more naturally be rendered as "a lot of advanced equipment" or "a great deal of advanced equipment" etc).

See the following for more on uncountable nouns:

http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/noun ... able_2.htm
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Re: How to use plural nouns correctly

Unread postby Weibing » Sat Dec 29, 2007 2:40 pm

Dear EC,

Thank you very very much! To tell the truth, I wasn't expecting you would answer a post yourself. So, I decided to respond immediately to show my respect for you!

1. Even though one has run through all the basic rules on the plural form of nouns, the one will probably still find it not so easy to use plural nouns correctly. There're always some exceptions, and what's really difficult is just the exceptions, especially given many many nouns act not only as a countable noun, but at the same time also as an uncountable noun. Do we need to consult a dictionary to make sure whether the word is a countable or an uncountable noun when we need to use a noun?!

2. 'Coffee' is an uncountable noun. Then how about the expression: two coffees please? Could an uncountable noun shift to a countable noun and thus have a plural form? For example, with effort/efforts, freedoms/freedom of citizens, concern/concerns about, and so forth. In such situations, the singular form or the plural form is acceptable?

3. How about the plural form of otherwise an abstract noun? Thoughs, feelings, ideas, and so on.

I'd say I might not express my thoughs properly. Chances are you got it and you'd add more to my inquiries.

Best regards,

Weibing
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Re: How to use plural nouns correctly

Unread postby Josef » Sat Dec 29, 2007 5:25 pm

Weibing wrote:1. Even though one has run through all the basic rules on the plural form of nouns, the one will probably still find it not so easy to use plural nouns correctly. There're always some exceptions, and what's really difficult is just the exceptions, especially given many many nouns act not only as a countable noun, but at the same time also as an uncountable noun. Do we need to consult a dictionary to make sure whether the word is a countable or an uncountable noun when we need to use a noun?!

I fear there are no short cuts for this. Yes, some nouns can be countable and uncountable, but usually with a shift in meaning. This is part and parcel of learning vocabulary.

Weibing wrote:2. 'Coffee' is an uncountable noun. Then how about the expression: two coffees please? Could an uncountable noun shift to a countable noun and thus have a plural form? For example, with effort/efforts, freedoms/freedom of citizens, concern/concerns about, and so forth. In such situations, the singular form or the plural form is acceptable?

Coffee has also come to have the meaning "cup of coffee" and in this sense is countable. For your other question, it is partly answered by yourself in 1, and I would simply add that a countable noun must by definition have a plural (as well as singular) form.

Weibing wrote:3. How about the plural form of otherwise an abstract noun? Thoughts, feelings, ideas, and so on.

Some of these can be countable and so would have plural forms (the three you mention for example). Note that idea is not normally uncountable. Some are uncountable only (eg music, happiness) though they might be used as countable for poetic reasons.

http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/noun ... able_3.htm
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Re: How to use plural nouns correctly

Unread postby nursyazana » Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:20 am

Hi,
How about his one.
"No colourings. No preservatives. No fragrance." or "This product contains no colouring, preservatives and fragrance."
Is it necessary to pluralize it since we're talking about something in general. And the word "colouring" and "fragance", can it be pluralized?

Thanks.
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