There are some English nouns that can be both plural and singular, depending on the context. This can be confusing for native speakers and non-native speakers alike. But don’t worry! In this lesson, we’ll go over some of the most common examples to help you figure out when to use them. Then we will go over some tips on how to teach English plural nouns.
Some of the most common examples of English nouns that can be both plural and singular include:
As you can see, these are all words that can refer to more than one thing, but they can also refer to a single thing. For example, you can say “I saw two deer in my backyard” or “I saw a deer in my backyard”.
Another example is “I caught three ﬁsh” or “I caught a ﬁsh”.
A Short Story Focusing on Nouns with the Same Singular and Plural Form
Today we go on a walk in the forest. We see many deer and bison. We see some ﬁsh in the river. As we walk, a moose in the distance travels with her offspring. Altogether there are twelve moose. We see dozens of salmon swimming upstream. We see many different species of birds.
In the evening, we take out four dice and have two series of games. We play until it’s time for bed.
In the middle of the night, we suddenly hear several aircraft in the sky. They are so loud that they wake us up. We see the lights of the aircraft and watch them until they disappear in the distance.
What a great day! We saw so many different animals and had so much fun!
Test Your Understanding
Uncountable Nouns vs. Nouns with the Same Singular and Plural Form
When we’re talking about English nouns that can be both plural and singular, we are talking about countable nouns. These are nouns that we can count with numbers. These nouns have two forms: singular and plural.
For example, we can say “I have two cats” or “I have a cat”.
However, there are also many uncountable nouns in English that have only one form. These are words that we cannot count with numbers. For example, we cannot say “I have two water” or “I have a water”. Instead, we can say “I have some water” or “I have a lot of water”.
Here are some more examples of uncountable nouns:
A Short Story Focusing on Uncountable Nouns
I am looking for some career advice, so I turn to my wiser friend for help. Useful information is what I need, and thankfully she has loads of it. She is even up-to-date with the latest news in the industry.
We sit down with a cup of tea (with very little sugar) and discuss my options. I have invested a lot of money in my education, so I need to make a wise decision.
“Nevermind that now”, she says. “First have some soup, and a plate of warm rice“.
Rain falls gently against the window. We sit in silence for a while, listening to the rain and eating our soup and rice.
Then she asks me about love (of all things).
“What does love have to do with career advice?” I reply.
My wise friend smiles and says, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
“That’s deep”, I say. And it is. Deep and true.
“That’s Confucius”, she says and takes away the empty plates of rice.
I finish my soup, thank my friend for her advice, and head out into the rain.
As I walk, the rain stops, and the sun is starting to come out. I think about all the different paths I could take in my life.
Surprisingly, the decision doesn’t seem so hard anymore. I smile, and start walking toward my new future.
So What’s the Difference?
The difference is that uncountable nouns cannot be counted. We cannot say “two rice”, nor “two rices”. There is only one form (in this case “rice”), and it refers to some amount of the thing, not a specific number of things.
In contrast, nouns with identical singular and plural forms are countable nouns, which can be counted. For example, we can say “Bob sold a sheep”. We can also say “Bob sold 30 sheep”.
To sum up, there are English nouns that can be both plural and singular. These are countable nouns that have the same form in both the singular and plural. In contrast, there are uncountable nouns that have only one form and cannot be counted.