GTE 1999 Minigrants: Adult Learning Center - ESL Program


The first question was, "Does the listener/reader know which noun I'm talking about?" If the answer is "Yes," you learned that the is used as the noun is definite (or specific.) It doesn't matter if the noun was singular or plural, count or non-count. If the answer is "No," the you move on to the next signpost.

SECOND SIGNPOST: Here, the question that you ask is, "Is this noun plural?" If the answer is "Yes," you don't use any noun marker. (In this lesson, this lack of a noun marker will be shown by this symbol ~.)

GUIDELINE I: If the noun you are talking about is not definite, but it is plural, do not use any noun marker.

I like ~apples. (This means any apples or apples in general.)

"Which do you like better, ~cats or ~dogs?" "Oh, I enjoy ~dogs much more."

POTHOLE: Some nouns come in a plural form. You can only use the or no noun marker (~). You cannot talk about 'a news' or 'an earnings.'

Here is a partial list of nouns like this:

arms* auspices basics clothes congratulations

customs* earnings goods grounds* looks*

news odds papers* premises* quarters*

regards* remains sands supplies surroundings

talks thanks ways values*

*Many of these nouns can be used in the singular. These with an asterisk* have an entirely different meaning in the singular. For example, 'arms' refers to weapons, but 'an arm' is a part of the human body.

POTHOLE: There are nouns that look plural, but are in fact non-count (our 3rd signpost.) Many are school subjects, games, medical terms or activities.

Here is a partial list of nouns like this which need no noun marker:

aerobics athletics classics diabetes economics genetics

linguistics logistics mathematics measles mechanics obstetrics

physics politics rabies thermodynamics

When it comes to videos, I love the ~classics.

The study of ~linguistics helps teachers of languages.

See also the plural nouns under Tools and Clothing in Special Nouns.

Plurals/practice 1

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