37. Errors with Singular and Plural Nouns

A) Plural Nouns in Place of Singular Nouns and Singular Nouns in Place of Plural Nouns

Underlined nouns in the Written Expression section may be incorrect because they are plural but should be singular, or because they are singular but should be plural.
Sometimes it is clear that a singular subject is incorrectly used because the verb is plural, or that a plural noun is used incorrectly because the verb is singular. In this type of item, the verb will not be underlined, because this is not a verb error.
Sometimes it is obvious that a plural or a singular noun is needed because of the determiners that precede the noun. Certain determiners are used only before singular nouns while other determiners are used only before plural nouns.

Determiners Used with Singular NounsDeterminers Used with Plural Nouns
a/antwo, three, four, etc.
onedozens of
a singlehundreds of
eachthousands of
everya few (of)
thismany (of)
thata number of
the number of
a couple (of)
every one of
each one of
each of
one of

Each contestant won a prize.
Each of the contestants won a prize.
This flower is a yellow rose.
These flowers are yellow roses.
I attended only one game this season.
It was one of the most exciting games that I ever attended.

Sample Item

Several of (A) Washington Irving’s story (B) have become (C) classics in American literature (D).

(A) of
(B) story
(C) become
(D) literature

The best answer is (B). In this item, both the determiner before the noun (Several of) and the plural verb (have) indicate that a plural noun (stories) should be used.

Mauna Loa, an active (A) volcano on (B) the island (C) of Hawaii, usually has one eruptions (D) every three years.

(A) an active
(B) on
(C) island
(D) eruptions

The best choice is (D). A singular noun must be used after the determiner one.

One of the (A) most beautiful (B) state capitol (C) is the Utah State Capitol, located (D) in Salt Lake City.

(A) of the
(B) beautiful
(C) capitol
(D) located

The correct choice is (C). The correct pattern is one of the + superlative adjective + plural noun. The plural noun capitols must therefore be used.

B) Errors Involving Irregular Plurals

Most plural nouns in English end in -s, but a few are irregular. Only the most common irregular plurals are tested on TOEFL. (Irregular plurals that come to English from Latin or Greek–data, cacti, alumnae, or phenomena, for example-will NOT be tested on TOEFL.)

Common Irregular Plural Nouns
Singular NounPlural Noun

Sample Item

As childs (A) grow older (B), their (C) bones become thicker (D) and longer.

(A) childs
(B) older
(C) their
(D) thicker

The best choice is (B). The correct plural form of child is children.

C) Errors with Plural Forms of Non-Count Nouns

In some items a non-count noun (such as furniture, research, sunshine, information, or bread) is incorrectly given as a plural noun.

Sample Item

Some (A) encyclopedias deal with (B) specific fields, such as music (C) or philosophy, and provide informations (D) on only those subjects.

(A) Some
(B) deal with
(C) music
(D) informations

The best choice is (D). Information is an uncountable noun and cannot be pluralized.

D) Errors with Plural Compound Nouns

Compound nouns consist of two nouns used together to express a single idea: grocery store, travel agent, dinner party, and house cat, for example. Only the second noun of compounds is pluralized: grocery stores, travel agents, dinner parties, and house cats.
(There are rare exceptions to this rule–sports cars and women doctors, for example–but these won’t be tested.)

Sample Item

Raymond Chandler’s detectives stories (A) are admired (B) by both critics and (C) general readers (D).

(A) detectives stories
(B) admired
(C) and
(D) readers

The best choice is (A). The correct plural form of this compound noun is detective stories.

E) ) Errors Involving Plural Forms of Numbers and Measurement

Some errors involve numbers + measurements:

They went for a six-mile walk.
They walked six miles.

In the first sentence, the number + measurement is used as an adjective, and the measurement is singular. In the second, the measurement is a noun and is therefore plural.
Numbers like hundred, thousand, and million may be pluralized when they are used indefinitely–in other words, when they do not follow other numbers.

seven thousandthousands
five million dollarsmillions of dollars

Sample Item

The (A) U.S. president serves (B) a maximum (C) of two four-years (D) terms.

(A) The
(B) serves
(C) maximum
(D) four-years

The best choice is (D). When used before a noun, a number + measurement is singular.

Thousand (A) of antibiotics have been (B) developed, but only (C) about thirty are (D) in common use today.

(A) Thousand
(B) have been
(C) only
(D) are

The best choice is (A). The plural form Thousands should be used.

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