Generalizing in the Plural

Rule 3.5 Use an s to generalize in the plural.

Correct: Alexander loves reading books.
Incorrect: Alexander loves reading a book.
Incorrect: Alexander loves read book.

Correct: Puppies are cute.
Incorrect: A puppy is cute.
Incorrect: Puppy is cute.

Exception to Rule 3.5: Do not use an s to generalize in the plural with irregular nouns.

Correct: Children hate homework.
Incorrect: A child hates homework.
Incorrect: Childs hate homework.
Incorrect: Childrens hate homework.

Correct: Salmon live in the ocean.
Incorrect: A salmon lives in the ocean.
Incorrect: Salmons live in the ocean.

Exercise 9: Fix the mistakes below.
e.g. Architect design buildingArchitects design buildings

Specific or General?

Many students of English find generalizing in the plural very problematic. A good rule of thumb; there are exceptions of course, is that a, an, and s are used when referring to specific things, while s is used in reference to the general.

Specific: a, an, s, or irregular plural

I am eating a chocolate bar.
Frank is going to a restaurant tomorrow.
I saw an elephant at the zoo yesterday.
I read 2 great stories yesterday.
Stan always sees a girl on the bus (the same girl, a specific girl)
Have you ever met a famous actor? (a specific actor, one time in your life)

General: s, or irregular plural

I always eat chocolate bars.
Frank enjoys going to restaurants.
Do elephants love peanuts?
I loved listening to stories when I was young.
Stan always sees pretty girls on the bus.

Gossip magazines harass actors and famous people.

Exercise 10: Specific or General? Fill in the blanks with a, an, or s.


There are also things that we generally want or need, but usually most people normally have only one of them. Examples of these would include: cars, houses, husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, computers, jobs, electronic gadgets, etc. In such cases the indefinite article a or an is used.

Correct: I need a new house.
Incorrect: I need new houses.

Correct: I want to find a job.
Incorrect: I want to find jobs.

Exercise 11. Fill in the blanks with a, an, or s.