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One of the first things we learn in using the English language is how to make plural nouns. The general rule is to add an s at the end of the word. For example, chair becomes chairs and table becomes tables. Because life is not simple, there are always exceptions and variations to this general rule. For example, life becomes lives, mouse becomes mice, city become cities, and child becomes children. But I have a strong, well-founded suspicion that you all know that.

So today's lesson starts here:

There are certain words that do not need the s to be converted to their plural form. In fact, they remain exactly as they are as when they are singular nouns.

These are some examples:

* equipment
* furniture
* jewelry
* advice
* stationery

* luggage
* stuff
* feedback
* hair

For example, you don't say, "I love your hairs." Even if the person has very thick, lustrous hair, you still say hair, not hairs. 

Let's use the above words in sentences:.

* The delivery men hauled a truckload of equipment into the new office building.
* We had the furniture for the CEO's office custom made.
* The tenants were advised to insure their jewelry.
* Through the years, my mentor has given me much advice about personal finance.
* We ordered stationery for the new office assistant.

There are certain words to which it is acceptable to add s, but you have to watch out for the context in which you use them.

For example, I hear people say, "Don't use jargons." Now, dictionary.com would say that jargons is an acceptable plural form. (Spellcheck, however, puts a red zigzag line underneath it.) Generally, though, jargon without an s is sufficient.

One definition of the word jargon is: the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.

It refers to a body of terms used by a specific group of people. So it wouldn't be correct to say, "Avoid using technical jargons." It's like saying, "I need to widen my vocabularies." In some rare cases, perhaps, jargons may be acceptable when one says, "Different kinds of jargons are used in different kinds of arts - music jargon, photography jargon, theater jargon."

The same situation holds true for the word behavior. I've heard somebody say, "I don't like his behaviors. He's always rude and irresponsible." Now, even though this spiteful fellow has been doing rude and irresponsible acts for years, it's still better to say, "I don't like his behavior." Behavior refers to the aggregate responses to internal and external stimuli. Again, there are times when adding an s to the end of the word behavior might be acceptable, like when you're talking about the behaviors of different cultures with regards to public display of affection.

I guess I have belabored the point well enough. For the words jargon and behavior, it will depend on context. But for equipment, jewelry, and the rest of the list above, it is best to spare the s. When in doubt, consult a reliable and recent dictionary. 


If everybody would just use the plural forms of these nouns properly, we could save the world one s at a time. Think of all the ink and trees we will save. And if you think of those grammar nazis who cringe and have their blood pressure shoot up whenever they hear the words advices and furnitures, maybe doing this will be our little way of contributing to world peace.

Sources: Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition, Watch Your English by Dr. Dups, www.dictionary.com

1 Comment:

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