IELTS Grammar: Number & its forms (singular & plural); with rules/methods, discussions and examples

IELTS Grammar: Number & its forms (singular & plural); with rules/methods, discussions and examples

This post focuses on a specific grammatical section of English grammar which is known as ‘number’. Many IELTS candidates find it difficult to differentiate between singular and plural numbers in Reading and Writing modules. This post discusses some common methods/ rules of ‘singular’ and ‘plural’ numbers with examples. Hopefully, candidates will learn the words and find it easy to understand ‘subject-verb agreement’ because it depends highly on ‘number’ (numbers decide the form of verbs used in a sentence).

IELTS Grammar: Number & its forms (singular & plural); with rules/methods, discussions and examples

Number:

In English grammar ‘Number’ is a grammatical category that relates to nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs. ‘Number’ tell us whether a noun or pronoun is one, two or more and they are significant in grammar to understand ‘subject-verb’ agreement.

There are two types of number; singular and plural.

Singular number:

This is used when a noun or pronoun refers to one item.

Plural number:

This is used when nouns or pronouns refers to two or more items.

Countable nouns have not only singular but also plural forms.

Uncountable nouns (generally) have singular form only.

The followings are some common rules or methods for singular and plural numbers.

Sl. No. Rule / Method Singular form Plural form
01 Add ‘s’ after nouns.

(Most common method)

book, pen, pencil, table, cat, food, computer, apple, orange, disk, task, oven, material, boy, girl, books, pens, pencils, tables, cats, foods, computers, apples, oranges, disks, tasks, ovens, materials, boys, girls,
02 Add ‘es’ after nouns ending in ‘ch’, ‘sh’, ‘o’ or ‘x’. tomato, potato, mango, tax, box, match, watch, stitch, branch, crash, lash, tomatoes, potatoes, mangoes, taxes, boxes, matches, watches, stitches, branches, crashes, lashes,
03 Add ‘s’ after nouns ending in ‘oo’ or ‘o’ after a vowel. cuckoo, bamboo, igloo,

studio,

cuckoos, bamboos, igloos,

studios

04 Add ‘s’ after commonly used short forms of words and some other words. photo, dynamo, piano, radio, studio, photos, dynamos, pianos, radios, studios,
05 Exception for rule no. 02:
Add ‘s’ after words ending in ‘ch’. Here, ‘ch’ pronounces as ‘k’.
monarch, stomach, patriarch, matriarch, monarchs, stomachs, patriarchs, matriarchs,
06 Add an ‘i’ in the place of ‘y’ and then add ‘es’ for nouns ending in a consonant and then ‘y’. baby, fly, story, city, army, babies, flies, stories, cities, armies,
07 Add ‘s’ for nouns ending in a vowel and then ‘y’. toy, day, boy, play, monkey, toys, days, boys, plays, monkeys,
08 Add ‘v’ in the place of ‘f’ or ‘fe’ and then add ‘es’ for nouns ending in ‘f’ or ‘fe’. leaf, loaf, wife, knife, leaves, loaves, wives, knives,
09 Add ‘s’ with nouns ending in ‘ief’, ‘if’, ‘off’, ‘rf’ ‘eef’. roof, cliff, chief, reef, roofs, cliffs, chiefs, reefs,
10 Exception for rule no. 09 & 10:

Some words can be made plural using ‘s’ or ‘es’ both.

hoof, wharf, scarf, staff, hoofs / hooves, wharfs / wharves, scarfs / scarves, staffs / staves,
11 Some words do not take a plural form to mean plural. Their singular and plural are the same word. Many of these words are abstract nouns. Many of them are uncountable nouns. deer, sheep, moose, shrimp,  furniture, information, knowledge,

jewelry, homework, marketing, livestock, education, courage, bravery, luck, cowardice

greed, clarity, honesty,  evidence, insurance, butter, love, news, curiosity, satisfaction,  work, mud, weather,  racism, sexism, patriotism, chaos, scenery,

help, advice, water, fun, wisdom, silence, sugar,

coal, spelling, money,

deer, sheep, moose, shrimp,  furniture, information, knowledge,

jewelry, homework, marketing, livestock, education, courage, bravery, luck, cowardice

greed, clarity, honesty,  evidence, insurance, butter, love, news, curiosity, satisfaction,  work, mud, weather,  racism, sexism, patriotism, chaos, scenery,

help, advice, water, fun, wisdom, silence, sugar,

coal, spelling, money,

12 Irregular plurals: These nouns have different words and sounds for their singular and plural forms. man, woman, tooth, goose, foot, mouse, louse, ox, child, medium, curriculum, larva, cactus, fungus, person, men, women, teeth, geese, feet, mice, lice, oxen, children, media, curricula, larvae, cacti, fungi, people (persons)
13 Some words are never singular. pants, pliers, scissors, tongs, pincers, tweezers, glasses (to wear),
14 Compound words: For compound words, the change happens according to their meanings. son-in-law, brother-in-law, brother-at-arms, Commander-in-chief, step-father, man-servant, Lord-justice, grand-parent, forget-me-not, Major-general, sons-in-law, brothers-in-law, brothers-at-arms, Commanders-in-chief, step-fathers, man-servants, Lord-justices, grand-parents, Forget-me-nots, Major-generals,
15 Some words may look plurals, but they are not. They are singular. diabetes, measles, mumps, politics, economics, gymnastics, mathematics, bowels, earnings, savings, alms,
16 Pronouns: Most pronouns have both singular and plural forms. I,

He/She/It,

My,

His/Her/Its,

This, That,

We,

They,

Our,

Their,

These, Those,

17 Some words have different plural meanings. Brother:

 

 

 

 

Cloth:

 

 

 

 

Index:

 

 

 

 

 

Fish:

Brothers: Alice has two brothers.

Brethren: The brethren of the club are now active.

 

Cloths: Rayan bought some cloths.

Clothes: She put on new clothes everyday.

 

Indexes: Indexes of books are helpful for readers.

Indices: Students of mathematics must learn the indices carefully.

 

Fishes: Different types of fishes are available in the market.

Fish: The boys are catching fish.

I hope these rules help you in understanding the basic differences between singular and plural numbers. There are some other rules which you can find in a good grammar book. You can study them and learn as much as possible. Remember to use these words in sentences so that you can differentiate easily.

Click here to learn about simple, complex and compound sentences

Click here to learn about identifying Subject and Object

Click here to learn about basic prepositions

Click here to learn about the use of linkers/ connector/ connecting words

Click here to learn about 10 most common mistakes in IELTS exams with corrections 

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