Errors in the Use of Noun


Errors in the use of nouns are very common. Students are advised to read the rules regarding the correct use of nouns very carefully.

A Noun, we all know, is the name of a person, place or thing.
There are five kinds of noun, viz.

i) Proper Noun: Azhar, Razia, Iqbal, Shakespeare.
(ii) Common Noun: girl, boy, dog, goat, poet, city.
(iii) Collective Noun: crowd, army, police, committee, staff.
(iv)  Abstract Noun: goodness, kindness, honesty, justice.
(v) Material Noun: rice, milk, gold, wood.  


1. Some nouns are countable, as book, pen, table, while some are non-countable, as milk, water, sugar, gold. Countable nouns have plural forms as books, pens, tables, while non-countable nouns do not. For example, we do not say milks, sugars, golds.

2. A noun that denotes a male is masculine, while a noun that denotes a female is feminine. For example, boy–girl, man–woman. A noun that denotes both male and female is Common Gender, as parent, child, servant, etc. A noun that denotes something lifeless or inanimate is Neuter Gender, as book, pen, table, etc.

3. When objects without life are personified and spoken of as living beings, they are regarded as male or female. For example, objects remarkable for strength and violence are generally referred to as masculine, such as the sun, summer, winter, time. Objects of beauty, grace and gentleness are generally referred to as feminine, such as the moon, earth, nature, mercy, hope.

4. Certain nouns like ship are often spoken of as ‘she’, such as: The ship lost her way in the storm.
5. A noun denoting one thing is in singular number as boy, girl, man, ox, while a noun denoting more than one thing is in plural number as boys, girls, men, oxen.

6. Some nouns are used only in the plural as scissors, spectacles, trousers, pants, annals, thanks, proceeds (of a sale), tidings.

7. Some nouns, originally in the singular, are now generally used in the plural, as, alms, riches, eaves.

8. Some nouns look plural but are, in fact, singular, as, news, billiards, mathematics, politics, measles.

ERRORS IN THE USE OF NOUNS 9. Certain collective nouns, though singular in form, are always used as plurals, as poultry, cattle, people, vermin, gentry. As a common noun, ‘people’ means a nation and is used in both singular and plural as: There are many different peoples in Europe.

10. Some nouns have two forms for the plural; each with a somewhat different meaning, as:

brothers:  sons of the same parents
brethren:  members of a society or a community.
cloths:  kinds or pieces of cloth
clothes:  garments that we wear.
Indexes:  table of contents to a book
Indices:  signs used in algebra.

11. Some nouns have two or more meanings in the plural, as

Colour (hue); Colours = (i) hues; (ii) the flag of a regiment.
Custom    (habit); Customs = (i) habits, (ii) duties levied on imports.
Effect (result); Effects = (i) results; (ii) property.
Manner (method); Manners = (i) habits, (ii) correct behaviour.
Pain (suffering); Pains = (i) sufferings;  (ii) care, exertion.
Premise (proposition); Premises = (i) propositions; (ii) buildings.
Spectacle (sight); Spectacles = (i) sights; (ii) pair of eye-glasses.
Ground (earth, reason); Grounds = (i) enclosed land attached to a house; (ii) reasons

12. Some nouns have different meanings in the singular and the plural as:

Advice (counsel); Advices = information
Air (atmosphere); Airs = affected manners
Good (nice); Goods = merchandise, benefit, well-being
Compass (extent range);    Compasses = an instrument for drawing circles.
Respect (regard); Respects = (compliments)
Physic (medicine); Physics = (natural science)
Iron (a kind of metal); Irons = (fetters)
Force (strength); Forces = (troops)

13. The Possessive Case (as Salma’s dress) does not always denote possession. It is used to denote authorship, origin, kind, etc., as Shakespeare’s plays (the plays written by Shakespeare); The President’s speech (the speech delivered by the president) A mother’s love (the love felt by a mother); Aslam’s school (the school where Aslam goes).

14. The Possessive Case is now used chiefly with the names of living things, as, the Governor’s bodyguard; the horse’s tail, but not the table’s leg (it should be the leg of the table). It is also used with: (i) the names of personified objects, as Pakistan’s heroes; the moon’s surface; duty’s call; fortune’s favourite; (ii) nouns denoting time, space or weight, as a day’s match; a week’s holiday; a stone’s throw; (iii) such common use, as, for mercy’s sake; to his heart’s content; a boat’s crew.

15. When one noun is qualified by two possessive nouns, both must have the possessive sign, unless joint possession is indicated, as,

i. Shahid’s and Khalid’s temperaments
(Noun temperaments qualified by two possessive nouns)
ii. Shahid and Khalid’s father
(Joint possession)

16. Some nouns which denote number or measure do not change their form in the plural when they are used after numerals, as I have bought four dozen pens. I gave him two thousand rupees as loan.

17. Some nouns like fish have the same singular and plural number. But when we use ‘fishes’ it means different kinds of fish.

18. The word ‘means’ has two totally different meanings— (i) money, resources, wealth, etc; and (ii) a method or process by which a result may be achieved. In the first sense, when it denotes income, it always takes a plural, as, we must not live beyond our means. In the second sense, it takes both singular and plural, as, (i) You cannot scare me by this mean. (ii) The trickster adopted several means to deceive me.

19. Some nouns like ‘advice’ are used in the singular only, as, advice, fruit, information, poetry, scenery offspring, machinery, furniture, hair. Hair, when used in the plural, means a number of hairs, as: Some of her hairs are grey.

20. The names of books with plural endings, as Gulliver’s Travels and Arabian Nights are used in the singular form as:

The Gulliver’s Travels is an interesting book.

21. Material nouns are not changed into plural when they denote mass and matter, as, The building is made of brick and stone. Similarly, ‘issue’ in the sense of offspring is always in the singular, as:

He died without an issue.( i.e., childless).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *