Nouns (only in the plural)

(English nouns that are used only in the plural)

Table of contents – nouns (only in the plural)

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Nouns that can only be used in the plural
  2. Particularities of such nouns
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What nouns can only be used in the plural (explanation)?

In the English language, there are some nouns that exist only in the plural. In consequence, these do not have a singular form and are called pluralia tantum (singular: plurale tantum) in professional jargon. However, some exceptional nouns belonging to this group have a singular form, which differs in its meaning. Compare some respective nouns and their usage accordingly:

  • Some examples of nouns that only exist in the plural:
    1. Various general designations:
      • clothes:
        • “Let’s go shopping. I really need new clothes.”
      • wages:
        • Wages have increased during the last few years.”
    2. In the same way, words that describe a pair (two parts) are only used in the plural:
      • glasses:
        • “My doctor says that I have to wear glasses.”
      • scissors:
        • “Where are the scissors? Have you seen them?”
      • pliers:
        • “Can you hand me the pliers, please?”
      • pants, trousers, jeans, shorts:
        • “How much are the jeans?”
    3. Some nationalities are also only common in the plural form (which means only with plural verbs):
      • the English, the British, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Welsh, etc.:
        • “The British like to drink tea in the afternoon.”
        • “The Spanish make the best paella.”

Particularities of nouns only used in the plural

In addition, some English nouns are plural but do not have an ‘s’ at the end and may, therefore, easily be confused with singular nouns. For that reason, it needs to be taken into account that these nouns always require verbs in the plural. Compare the following usage:

  • Some words give the impression of being singular, but they are used like plural nouns and, consequently, also with plural verbs:
    • police:
      • “The police are already here.”
        • Not: “The police is …”
      • Information: If you refer to a single police officer, it is possible to use ‘policeman’, for example:
        • “The girl is talking to the policeman.”
    • cattle:
      • “There are a lot of cattle in the meadow.”
        • Not: “There is a lot …”
    • people (plural of ‘person’); this is a collective noun:
      • “There are more than 200 people waiting because the flight has been cancelled.”
      • Be careful: If you use ‘people’ in the singular or withs’ at the end in its plural form, then the word refers to ‘nation’ or ‘ethnic group’:
        • “There are more than 25 different peoples in the European Union.”

Further explanations related to ‘Nouns that are used only in the plural’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Nouns (only in the plural)’ and might be interesting as well: