Always Singular and Always Plural Nouns

This podcast provides a handy short list of uncountable nouns (which are always singular) and a few countable nouns that are always plural that are commonly used in science and medical writing.

Welcome and thank you for joining me at Onboard Editing’s ESL Medical and Science Writing Tips. My name is Thressa. I created this series to improve the English in your science or medical research papers. 

Today I am going to continue talking about nouns because as I said last time, nouns make up the largest class of words in most languages, including English. And I see in my editing of medical and science papers that people who are learning English struggle with nouns.

In the last episode, I told you about uncountable nouns. Those are nouns that do NOT have a physical or conceptual boundary. I also stressed that the most important thing to remember about uncountable nouns is they can only be singular: they are never plural.

And another good thing to remember is that they use the word much in front of them NOT the word many.

I thought if might be helpful to you to have a short list of uncountable nouns that are often used in medical and science papers. That way you can write them down and put the list by your computer or laptop or notebook or whatever device you use to write your papers so that you can be on the lookout for them. When you see one of these words or do a search for them in your paper, you will be able to check that you correctly made them singular and matched them with singular verbs or pronouns. 

Ready? Here we go:

Training

Teaching

Advice

Information

Education

Caution

Support

Health

Attention

Confusion

Safety

Evidence

Staff

Expression

Funding

Research

Keep in mind that some nouns can be used as other parts of speech, such as verbs. For the list I gave you, I’m only talking about when the word is being used as a noun, in particular as an uncountable noun. An important word in this list to be careful with is research. It can be an uncountable noun or it can be used as a verb. 

An example of the correct use of research as an uncountable noun is this: my research involved examining three brain neurotransmitters. Even though I conducted many studies on this, I use the word research not researches because here research is being used as an uncountable noun.

An example of the correct use of research as a verb is this: my professor researches lung cancer treatments.

But what if I change that sentence slightly to add a different verb (in this case the verb conduct) in front of the word research?

My professor conducts researches for lung cancer treatments.

Does that sound right to you? It is not correct. Because research is no longer the verb in the sentence but it is noun a noun. So we must make research singular. 

My professor conducts research for lung cancer treatments.

Another word on this list of words that are being used as uncountable nouns that I see English learners struggle with in almost every paper is the word evidence.

Here is an example of evidence used incorrectly: 

These 3 evidences support our hypothesis.

Now here are 4 ways to easily revise that sentence so that it is correct.

These 3 types of evidence support our hypothesis.

This evidence supports our hypothesis.

Much evidence supports our hypothesis.

Increasing evidence supports our hypothesis.

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Now I thought it would be fun to switch gears and share something with you I read in the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary’s Blog about some countable nouns often used in science and medical papers that are always plural. You probably remember that countable nouns have conceptual or physical boundaries, such as people, places, or things. 

Because these words are always grammatically plural, you will use plural verbs and plural pronouns with them.

Examples of plural verbs are were and are, rather than was and is

The countable nouns pants or trousers are always plural. So you would write, my pants are red; not my pants is red.

Countable nouns used in science and medical papers that are ALWAYS PLURAL include

glasses, when referring to eyewear, 

binoculars and goggles

2 bladed tools are also ALWAYS PLURAL: for example

scissors, forceps, tweezers, tongs, pliers, and shears

However, if you add the phrase “a pair of” in front of any of these plural nouns I just mentioned, the noun stays plural but now use a singular verb or pronoun; 

for example, Those scissors are no longer sharp. But: That pair of scissors is no longer sharp.

Thanks as a noun is always plural, as in I offer my humble thanks for your listening to this podcast; 

But the verb form thank you is always singular, as in thank you very much for listening today.

If you have a question about whether a noun in a specific sentence should be plural, head over to Onboard editing’s FB page and type the sentence in a comment. Please type the sentence as best you can in English. Don’t worry about making mistakes. That is how we all learn!

If you are struggling with other topics while writing your research papers, please let me know on Onboard Editing’s FB page. No doubt others are having a similar problem. If the answer is short, I will reply on FB; If a longer explanation is needed, I may create a podcast to address the problem. 

Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please take a moment to rate, review, subscribe, or share. 

Next week, we will continue to focus on nouns. 

Until then keep safe and practice writing. Improved writing will increase your chances of getting published!

Bye

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