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Singular and Plural: Getting it right

June 18, 2011 Category :Language Off

English can be a difficult language. Getting the grammar right when it comes to singular and plural is usually easy, though. In almost all languages and dialects correct grammar demands subject and verb agree. There are derivative forms of the verb for each of the singular and plural, for each of first, second, and third person cases. In English many of the forms are the same; see the example with “to run” below.

Regular verbs in English are conjugated differently for singular and plural. Singular (for I, you, and he/she/it) for the regular verb “to run” is I run, you run, he/she/it runs. Note the “s” there at the end. For plural, it goes as we run, you (all) run, they run. [I’ll use the common colloquial version of the second person plural here, “you all” to make it clear when the second person plural is meant. It’s not standard English, but suits my purposes here very well.] That last “s” disappeared! Most verbs are like this; the “s” jumps around. Compare “the cat runs away” with “the cats run away.” As a general rule, “s” sticks to the plural noun and the singular verb. Not the clearest rule, but it works pretty well for all those regular(rule-following) verbs. Irregular verbs don’t have that handy “s” around all the time to help out, but the difference between singular and plural is usually easy to recognize unless it’s an irregular verb you’ve never seen before.

What if it’s hard to tell if the subject is singular or plural? » Continue Reading