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Grammar 13 - Subject - Verb Agreement - Singular, Plural or Uncountable 3
Billiards is an uncountable noun, and also a game.

Grammar 13 - Subject - Verb Agreement - Singular, Plural or Uncountable 3

This is the third of three High English quizzes on the subject of subject and verb agreement of singular, plural and uncountable nouns, focussing particularly on the uncountable variety.

The nuts and bolts of the English language are the different parts of speech. Of these, the verb and the noun are two of the most essential parts. A sentence, which is the basic component of English, would not be a sentence without the presence of a noun and a verb. Nouns are categorised into various types and two of theses are countable (singular and plural) and uncountable nouns.

Countable nouns are those that can be counted, such as apples. One apple would be singular and any other number of apples would be plural. Uncountable nouns, on the other hand, are those that cannot be counted in the normal sense. For instance, liquids come under uncountable nouns - we do not use the phrase ‘two milk.’ However, we can attach words to the noun that would tell us how much milk there is. We can say the milkman delivers ‘TWO LITRES OF MILK everyday to my house.’ Thus, uncountable nouns do not have a plural form, they are normally used to describe a category as a whole and in sentence construction the singular form is used, like so:

‘Milk IS a necessity for infants.’

Uncountable nouns can also use words such as MUCH, SOME, AMOUNT and LITTLE. Here are some examples:

‘Can you give me some water

Uncountable nouns can broadly be categorised into four types:

Activities (sleep, homework etc.)
Feelings/qualities (pride, joy, anger, honesty etc.)
Concepts (freedom, beauty, hope etc.)
Substances (wine, flour, bread etc.).

Some of the words we use before uncountable nouns can only be used with select nouns depending on the type of noun. For instance, some words such as ‘a slice of’ can be used with certain substances (bread, papaya and mango for example) and cannot be used with others (like water, milk or petrol). Likewise, ‘a litre of’ is used for liquids and not solids. However, words such as ‘some’ and ‘much’ can be used with almost all uncountable nouns as well as countable nouns.

While constructing sentences with uncountable nouns, subject-verb agreements are determined by the nature of the noun and the appropriate verb is used. The quiz that follows tells you more about the use of an uncountable noun as a subject and its agreement with verbs.

1.
Choose the set that comprises countable plural nouns.
courts martial, commanders-in-chief, sons-in-law
court martials, commander-in-chiefs, son-in-laws
mumps, rickets, tuberculosis
billiards, cards, bowls
The words in option 1 are compound nouns and the plural ending is usually added to the main noun. The words in option 2 are the incorrect plurals. The words in option 3 are uncountable nouns expressing diseases. The words in option 4 are uncountable nouns expressing sports/games (although cards and bowls are also plurals for the words card and bowl!)
2.
Choose the correct sentence.
The equipment supplied by the new company were faulty.
The equipment supplied by the new company are faulty.
The equipment supplied by the new company have been faulty.
The equipment supplied by the new company was faulty.
The subject is 'equipment' and it is an uncountable noun without a plural form. Though the word is a collective noun it is generally used with a singular verb. The sentences in the other options are appropriate only if the subject is considered a plural
3.
Choose the correct sentence.
The milkman left five litres of milk today.
The milkman left five milks today.
The milkman left five milk today.
The milkman left one milk today.
This is a correct sentence as 'milk' is an uncountable noun. We use 'litre' to measure the quantity of milk. The sentences in the other options are incorrect because 'milk' is an uncountable noun and usage of numbers is not appropriate
4.
Choose the set that comprises countable singular nouns.
strata, quanta, phenomena, criteria
dramatics, gymnastics, statistics, electronics
people, media, teeth, geese
bus, lens, gas, address
Remember that not all words ending in 's' are plurals. However, they may become plurals by adding appropriate letters, as in 'buses.' The words in options 1 and 3 are plurals of irregular nouns. Can you find their singular forms? The words in option 2 are uncountable nouns expressing subjects
5.
Choose the incorrect sentence.
Give me four litres of confidence and I will shine in the test.
The machinery are performing well.
The heir apparents of the billionaire are all minors.
All of the above are incorrect.
The sentence in option 1 has an uncountable noun (confidence) and 'four litres' is an incorrect phrase to use. This phrase is used with liquids to express their quantities. The sentence in option 2 also has an uncountable noun (machinery) and this noun uses a singular verb. The sentence in option 3 has a countable noun (heir apparent) and the plural form is 'heirs apparent'
6.
Choose the correct sentence.
The teams which won five matches this year has been nominated for the grand prize.
The team which won five matches this year have been nominated for the grand prize.
The team which won five matches this year has been nominated for the grand prize.
The team which won five matches this year are being nominated for the grand prize.
'Team' is the subject and it is a singular noun and hence the verbs 'has been nominated' are used. The other sentences are incorrect as the subject and verbs do not agree
7.
Choose the correct sentence.
If I could get some more marks I would pass the test.
They say some knowledge is better than no knowledge.
I would like some ice cream please.
All of the above are correct.
The sentence in option 1 has a plural countable noun (marks) and 'some' can be used with it. The sentences in options 2 and 3 have uncountable nouns (knowledge, ice cream) and 'some' can also be used with them
8.
Choose the correct sentence.
Do you have four time to finish your homework?
Do you have enough time to finish your homework?
Do you have four times to finish your homework?
Do you have a time to finish your homework
Uncountable nouns such as 'time' use words such as little, some or much to give a sense of magnitude. However, when you want to be specific you need to use words such as 'thirty minutes of time' or 'it takes four hours to reach Chennai.' The sentences in the other options do not use the words associated with time. Note that we cannot use the article 'a' for uncountable nouns
9.
Choose the correct sentence.
Could you give me two spoonfuls of buns please?
Could you give me two spoonfuls of bread please?
Could you give me two spoonfuls of cake please?
Could you give me two spoonfuls of sugar please?
Uncountable nouns can take some words which are unique to them to express quantity. Spoonful is associated with items such as sugar, salt, pepper and the like. Spoonful is also associated with liquids. 'Buns' is a countable noun and spoonful does not go with it. For 'bread' we normally use 'a slice of bread.' For 'cake' we normally use 'a piece of cake'
10.
Choose the incorrect sentence.
Ten peace around here would be welcome.
Some peace around here would be welcome.
A moment of peace around here would be welcome.
A little peace around here would be welcome.
'Peace' is an uncountable noun and hence a number by itself cannot be attached to it. However, instead of 'Ten peace around here would be welcome' we could write 'Ten minutes of peace would be welcome.' The sentences in the other options use words which are compatible with a large number of uncountable nouns and hence all of them are correct sentences
Author:  V T Narendra

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