This is a hairy subject with several tentacles leading off like an octopus. Here, we will address some groups of singular nouns that end with s. These are the most common, as we think of nouns ending with s as being plural and taking plural verbs, but some take singular verbs.
It will be easiest to remember categories where you will find these nouns. Keep in mind that if a noun represents a single person, place, thing or idea, it uses a singular verb. It will be singular in number and in meaning.
Certain principles or fields of study end in “ics”. These include subjects you find in school: mathematics, physics, economics, classics, ethics and aesthetics, for example. Note the singular verb: “Physics is the class that makes me pull my hair out.”
Games often look plural: marbles, billiards, checkers, cards, darts and dominoes. “Chinese checkers uses a special board that looks like a six-pointed star.”
Some diseases end with an s – measles, mumps and rabies, for instance – and we use a singular verb. “Mumps is a disease which will make you look like a chipmunk!”
Be aware that some terms may use singular or plural verbs, depending on the sense. One of these is statistics: “Statistics (sing.) is required for this degree. The statistics (pl.) suggest women are better at this.”
Although these Tricky Plurals can be confusing, just being mindful of them is the first step to learning them. Don’t worry, even native speakers get these wrong!
Author: Angel Sgitheanach, Cambly Tutor
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