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Unit 5. Singular, plural, and collective nouns
(существительные, употребляемые только в единственном и множественном числах и собирательные существительные)

Main points

1. Some nouns are used in particular meanings in the singular with a determiner, like count nouns, but are not used in the plural with that meaning. They are often called "singular nouns".

Some of these nouns are normally used with "the" because they refer to things that are unique.

air
country
countryside
dark
daytime
end
future
ground
moon
past
sea
seaside
sky
sun
wind
world

The sun was shining.

I am scared of the dark.

Other singular nouns are normally used with "a" because they refer to things that we usually talk about one at a time.

bath
chance
drink
fight
go
jog
move
rest
ride
run
shower
smoke
snooze
start
walk
wash

I went upstairs and had a wash.

Why don't we go outside for a smoke?

2. Some nouns are used in particular meanings in the plural with or without determiners, like count nouns, but are not used in the singular with that meaning. They are often called "plural nouns".

His clothes looked terribly dirty.

Troops are being sent in today.

Some of these nouns are always used with determiners.

activities
authorities
feelings
likes
pictures
sights
travels
 

I went to the pictures with Tina.

You hurt his feelings.

Some are usually used without determiners.

airs
expenses
goods
refreshments
riches
 

Refreshments are available inside.

They have agreed to pay for travel and expenses.

WARNING: "Police" is a plural noun, but does not end in "-s".

The police were informed immediately.

3. A small group of plural nouns refer to single items that have two linked parts. They refer to things that people wear or tools that people use.

glasses
jeans
knickers
pants
pyjamas
shorts
tights
trousers
-
binoculars
pincers
pliers
scales
scissors
shears
tweezers

She was wearing brown trousers.

These scissors are sharp.

You can use "a pair of" to make it clear you are talking about one item, or a number with "pairs of" when you are talking about several items.

I was sent out to buy a pair of scissors.

Liza had given me three pairs of jeans.

Note that you also use "a pair of" with words such as "gloves", "shoes", and "socks" that you often talk about in twos.

4. With some nouns that refer to a group of people or things, the same form can be used with singular or plural verbs, because you can think of the group as a unit or as individuals. Similarly, you can use singular or plural pronouns to refer back to them. These nouns are often called "collective nouns".

army
audience
committee
company
crew
enemy
family
flock
gang
government
group
herd
navy
press
public
staff
team
-
data
media

Our little group is complete again.

The largest group are the boys.

Our family isn't poor any more.

My family are perfectly normal.

The names of many organizations and sports teams are also collective nouns, but are normally used with plural verbs in spoken English.

The BBC is showing the programme on Saturday.

The BBC are planning to use the new satellite.

Liverpool is leading 1-0.

Liverpool are attacking again.

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