‘News is’ or ‘news are’ – singular or plural?

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

Several English words end with an “s” in their singular form. Most of these don’t pose any problem; few people would say “the kiss were beautiful” instead of “the kiss was beautiful”. However, there are a few that commonly cause problems:

news

Although the equivalent expression in many languages would be in the plural, “news” is a singular noun, so you should say:

The news is being broadcast by all major TV stations. (correct)
The news are being broadcast by all major TV stations. (wrong)

Oddly enough, “news” is uncountable, which means that not only is it followed by a singular verb, but you also cannot say “a news”:

I’ve got good news. (correct)
I’ve got a good news. (wrong)

lens

Unlike “news”, “lens” is countable, so you can try to remember that if there can be “two lenses”, there must also be “one lens”:

His new lens is big. (correct)
His new lens are big. (wrong)

series

To make things even more confusing, the plural of “series” is also series. You should therefore use a singular verb if you speak about one particular series, e.g. “my favourite TV series has been cancelled”, and a plural verb if you speak about several series at a time, e.g. “all the series of the Unknown Channel are good”.

means

Similarly to “series”, “means” is already both the singular and the plural form. For example, “railway is a means [singular] of transportation, but there are also several other good means [plural] of transportation.

bellows

A “bellows” is an instrument used for blowing air. Like “series”, the plural of “bellows” is also “bellows”, so you have to use a singular verb when speaking about one bellows and a plural verb when speaking about more than one.

measles

Measles is a disease, and as you have probably noticed from the previous sentence, the word is in the singular:

Measles is especially common among children. (correct)
Measles are especially common among children. (wrong)

Quite naturally, it is uncountable, i.e. you cannot have “two measles”.

Plural nouns that learners think are singular

In addition to the words above, there are a few words which only have a plural form and might be confusing for some learners if the equivalent expression in their mother tongue is in the singular:

jeans, tights, trousers, pants

All this hosiery is used only in the plural (usually because they come in pairsfor both legsand the singular form has died out):

Her new jeans/tights/trousers/pants are black. (correct)
Her new jeans/tights/trousers/pants is black. (wrong)

tongs

Not to be confused with “thongs”, the plural of “thong” which is a type of underwear, “tongs” are the same case as above:

The tongs are not big enough. (correct)
The tongs is not big enough. (wrong)

This article was based on my guide to the most common mistakes in English, which explains many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?

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