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.

[WpProQuiz 42]

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.

[WpProQuiz 43]


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.

[WpProQuiz 44]