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Singular vs Plural: Common Mistakes and How to Correct Them | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 11 February 2024)


Knowing when to use singular or plural forms of nouns is a crucial aspect of English language proficiency. One common mistake that learners make when talking about multiple things collectively is using the singular form when the plural is needed. In this blog post, we will delve into this issue and explore some examples to illustrate the correct usage.

Imagine you are discussing a collection of books. Instead of saying Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3 (i.e. saying the word Book three times), you can simply use the plural form Books followed by 1, 2, and 3 to indicate that you are referring to multiple individual books:

Books 1, 2, and 3 cover the history of Hong Kong.
Book 1, 2, and 3 cover the history of Hong Kong.

Similarly, when referring to individual chapters collectively, it is essential to use the plural form. For instance, if you want to talk about chapter 5 and chapter 6, you can either express it like that or do so more concisely by saying chapters 5 and 6:

I find chapters 5 and 6 particularly difficult to understand.
I find chapter 5 and 6 particularly difficult to understand.

Using the plural form chapters makes it clear that you are referring to two distinct chapters.

This principle applies to other things. Consider the following examples:

✅ We haven't yet watched episodes 6 through 9 of the show.
We haven't yet watched episode 6 through 9 of the show.

✅ This morning at church, we studied 2 Corinthians chapter 9, verses 5, 6, and 7.
This morning at church, we studied 2 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 5, 6, and 7.

✅ Many students find it hard to improve their grades in Papers 2 and 3 of the HKDSE English Language exam.
Many students find it hard to improve their grades in Paper 2 and 3 of the HKDSE English Language exam.

Rooms A and B have already been booked. If you don't mind a smaller space, Room C is available.
Room A and B have already been booked. If you don't mind a smaller space, Room C is available.

Please follow the signs to Exits C and D.
Please follow the signs to Exit C and D.

The report is divided into Sections A and B for easier reference.
The report is divided into Section A and B for easier reference.

Remember to complete both Parts A and B of the test within the given time limit.
Remember to complete both Part A and B of the test within the given time limit.

To sum up, whether you are talking about books, chapters, episodes, or other things, using the correct plural forms ensures clarity and accuracy in your language. By understanding and applying this rule, you can enhance your language skills and communicate more effectively. 

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Examples from the Media

There are a handful of tickets available for Henry IV parts one and two, and some for Henry V at the Barbican, and limited availability when the cycle moves to the Young Vic for Henry VI parts one, two and three, and Richard III. The Guardian (2001)

In this response, the diagram has been used to determine the correct answers for parts (a) and (b). The final answers have been stated correctly in the spaces provided. The working for part (c) accompanies the solution and is both logical and correct. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2021)

We are talking, essentially, about bankruptcy. But I'm not using that term here because, technically, it applies only to cases filed in the federal court system—often using the infamous Chapters 7 and 11 statutes. —The New York Times (2023)

If the federal government wants to limit these rights, according to Sections 1 and 24(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, it must be able, if challenged, to demonstrate before a court of competent jurisdiction that the law imposing the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in a free and democratic society. Toronto Sun (2022)

Real-World Examples of Misuse

When referring to multiple chapters, it is customary to use the plural form of chapter to indicate more than one.
(Image Source: Diocesan Girls' Junior School)
(Also by the Same School: 1/2)

Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 should be shortened to Chapters 1 and 2.
(Image Source: Diocesan Girls' Junior School)
(Also by the Same School: 1/2)



(Image Source: Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority)
(Also by HKEAA: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13)

1. The writing component of the HKDSE English Language exam is divided into two sections: Part A and Part B. When referring to these sections, we can use either Part A and Part B or the more concise form Parts A and B. Saying Part A and B would imply the existence of a single combined section called A and B, which is not the case.
2. When defining the endpoints of a range, do not pair between with to. The correct combinations are between . . . and and from . . . to. In the given sentence, on a scale of 0 to 7 sounds the most natural.
(Image Source: HKDSE English Language 2021 Question Papers)
(Also by HKEAA: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13)

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