Nouns (only in the singular)

(English nouns that are used only in the singular)

Table of contents – nouns (only in the singular)

On this page you will find the following:

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

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

In addition to the regular English nouns (which can be used in the singular as well as in the plural), some nouns only exist in the singular. Consequently, these nouns do not have a plural form and are called singularia tantum (What does ‘singulare tantum’ mean?) in professional jargon. Compare the following singular nouns accordingly:

  • Examples of English nouns that occur only in the singular. As a learner of English, consider that these nouns may have a plural form in some other languages:
    • information
    • baggage
    • luggage
    • knowledge
    • business (the activity or process of trading itself)
      • But: businesses (referring to companies)
        • The plural form is possible here but differs in meaning.
    • merchandise
    • dust
    • homework
    • wealth
  • Below, you will find some examples of sentences with respective nouns. Note that these nouns can only be utilised with verbs in the singular:
    • Business is good.”
      • Careful: If used in the plural with a different meaning, the verb needs to be in the plural too:
        • “Many businesses have gone bankrupt this year.”
    • “Our homework was very difficult yesterday.”
    • “If your baggage weighs too much, you have to pay an extra fee.”

Particularities of English nouns that only exist in the singular

Apart from the examples of nouns above (that have only singular forms), there are some further exceptions. These have an ‘s’ at the end of the word and so are often mistaken for plural nouns. Consider these examples of such nouns:

  • The following English nouns end in ‘s’ and may, for that reason, easily be confused with plural nouns. However, they are in the singular and are, therefore, also used with singular verbs:
    • news:
      • “This is good news.”
    • mathematics:
      • Mathematics is our last lesson today.”
    • progress:
      • “I think the progress we’ve made is still not enough.”
    • measles:
      • Measles is a disease that typically occurs in childhood.”

Further explanations relating to ‘Nouns that are used only in the singular’

The following explanations refer to the topic ‘Nouns (only in the singular)’ and may also be helpful: