When to use singular and plurals

Here’s a handy quick guide to when certain nouns are singular and when they are plural.

  • Collective nouns – as well as companies/organisations – are singular.  ‘The CBI is’ not ‘the CBI are’; the government has fallen; the jury retires to consider the verdict.  Note, that for some reason, the police, sports teams and pop groups are plural, as in: Chelsea are doing well this season.
  • ‘None’ and ‘no-one’ are both singular.  So it’s correct to write: Two hundred people were involved in the accident but no-one was hurt.
  • The plural of veto is vetoes, also potatoes, tomatoes, embargoes – but tobaccos, pianos, manifestos.
  • Plurals of composite words need watching: secretaries-general and governors-general (because they are not generals) and runners-up.


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