You might think something as basic as a noun would be foolproof. Nope! Review and memorize the following information about "when good nouns go bad," which will help you to complete the related skills exercises.
The most common error afflicting nouns involves an error of pluralization. Though most nouns are made plural by the addition of "-s," a minuscule list of nouns (compared to the tens of thousands of nouns in the English language) form plurals irregularly, for various reasons. Some, however, have unusual plural forms because they are of direct Latin, Greek, or French origin.
Singular . . . . . Plural
Certain plural nouns have come to be used as single concepts or things. Some agree with singular verb forms (e.g., "The news just repeats itself" or "This television series is awful"), but most do not.
CERTAIN ARTICLES OF CLOTHING
Probably because they are made for body parts that come in pairs (arms and legs, ears), certain articles of clothing have come to be thought of as one thing acting like two. They nevertheless agree with a plural verb form (e.g., "Suspenders for men's trousers are coming back in style").
As with certain articles of clothing, most optical devices are made with a pair in mind—a pair of eyes, that is—so they have come to be thought of as one thing acting like two. They nevertheless agree with a plural verb form.
Certain games with multiple iterations of the same game pieces fall into the category of plural form / singular verb ("Billiards is an enjoyable pastime").
Subjects with plural endings also agree with singular verbs ("The physics of the subatomic world is a mystery to many"). The exception on the following list is "politics," which can take a singular or a plural verb.
CERTAIN DISEASES AND ILLNESSES
The "folk" use of English has shown a tendency to call maladies by plural nouns beginning with the definite article "the"; diarrhea, for instance is pejoratively called “the runs” or "the squirts," and a runny nose is called "the sniffles"; a bout of depression is "the blues," and so on. This same tendency is observed in some formally recognized illnesses, but they can take either singular or plural verb forms ("measles are" or "measles is").
Compound nouns present their own special problems for plurals, especially if they're hyphenated. To be fair, most compound nouns follow the rules and add "-s," but a few rare compound nouns are also formed out of nouns that already have irregular plurals. What makes the plural forms of these compound nouns somewhat odd is that they don't obey even their own irregular rules. Some examples:
Other plural compound nouns move the plural –s internally, to one of the words not on the end. Virtually all of them occur with Post-Positive Adjectives (adjectives that follow the noun, rather than precede it). Many of these are highly specialized and include diplomatic and military titles: "Knights-errant," for instance, or "Quartermasters General. These are a matter of protocol more than anything. The more common variety of plural compounds that cause writers difficulty are listed here below:
Singular nouns ending with double-s are fairly common in the English language: pass; countess; boss; less; etc. However, students are suddenly undone by words in the English language that end in single "s," especially when it comes time to pluralizing them —and for good reason, for there are enough illogical irregularities in the spelling rules of such words to make even jaded English professors say, "Well, huh." Take, for instance, the word "bus": no satisfying reason exists to explain why "buses" should be one of its two acceptable plural spellings (the other, of course, being the very rationale and rule- obedient "busses"—double "s"). If all the practical rules of pronunciation were to apply, "buses" would have the same pronunciation as "abuses," rather than rhyme with "fusses." Mind you, this same quirk of spelling shows up in other parts of speech, too. For example, the past tense of the verb "travel" can be spelled either "traveled" or "travelled"; the latter dutifully obeys the rules of spelling transformation, while the former is just a cheap way for travel agencies to save some money advertising in the Classifieds. Still, pluralizing words already ending in "s" so flummoxes students these days that it may seem as if rote memorization is their only recourse.
Truthfully, in the vast majority of cases, singular nouns ending in single "s" are also irregular nouns of foreign origin: abacus; hubris; anaphylaxis; incubus; etc. (See "Irregular Plurals" above.) However, here are some less exotic nouns in their singular form that end in single "s" and may cause you confusion when you have to pluralize them:
PROPER NOUNS WITH "S" ENDINGS
The following are examples of proper nouns that may look plural because they end in -s, but which are not. If pluralized, they follow the same rules as common nouns.
First Names and Nicknames
The rules of changing ordinary nouns from singular into plural don't trouble students much until they have to consider their possessive forms as well. The possessive form in English grammar is the genitive case (see "Pronouns"), which is indicated in one of two ways:
1. Preposition "Of": placed before the object noun or pronoun to which belonging is attributed
2. Possessive Apostrophes: used instead of the preposition "of" (never in addition to it)
If you choose to use the preposition "of" to indicate possession, nothing additional need be done if the noun is irregular or plural; the same rules of plural endings apply. However, if you use an apostrophe, some minor distinction must be made to indicate where the noun* is singular possessive or plural possessive.
The singular possessive form of a noun always is apostrophe + "s."
The plural possessive form of a noun in most cases is "s" + apostrophe.
*Note: When apostrophes are used to denote possession, the noun transforms into a modifier, describing what or who is possessed or owned. As such, it answers the same questions other modifiers answer, which? and whose? For example: Bob's car" (Which car? Bob's); winter's approach (Which approach? Winter's). On a sentence diagram, possessive nouns would occupy the same position as Possessive Adjectives, which may help you to remember this point. In fact, just as possessive adjectives are really modifiers derived from pronouns, possessive nouns are modifiers that once were real nouns.
The irregular plural possessive form of some nouns is "apostrophe + "s." These should be memorized.
Some clumsy exceptions formed from well-meaning attempts to make words more easily pronounced are
While most writers write "people" to pluralize "person," "person" is not an irregular noun requiring "people" as its plural form. Rather, it's a matter of convention to do so. The evidence for this lies in the fact that both words, "person" and "people," have their own regular singular and plural forms.
Nowhere does the issue of possessive case become more flummoxing than when nouns ending in "s" are involved, because it seems redundant and clumsy. Regardless, this is only a prejudice of students who, after a lifetime of rules and their exceptions having been drilled into them, now nervously believe something special should be done to accommodate the weirdness of so many esses piled up. Confused advice on the internet and elsewhere does little to disabuse them of their prejudice, too. However, the matter is really as simple as the rules of pluralizing nouns that end in "s": they're exactly the same as any other noun, and their possessive forms follow the same rules. Here are some examples.
The title of published work is a singular noun phrase: the entire title is one single thing, and when it is the subject of a clause, the verb form should be singular as well. That's why, when a plural noun is used in the title, we still make the verb of our sentence agree with a singular subject:
The possessive form of titles is something to treat on a case-by-case basis. If the title of a published work does not end in "-s," you are permitted to use an apostrophe + "s" just as you would with any other singular noun. This technique is straightforward enough when the title is in italics:
However, when the title is in quotation marks, then this technique becomes more problematic:
In these examples, closed double-quotation marks alongside a possessive apostrophe are technically correct, but typographically very awkward. Similarly, when an italicized title ends in -s or is a regular plural, it's awkward to use an apostrophe + "s," even though you still treat the entire title as a singular noun. In such cases, you'll want to follow your instincts about what sounds least awkward. Most of the time, using the preposition "of," and not a possessive apostrophe at all, is the best answer.