On a chilly winter evening in New Delhi, I saw this sign blazing in the dark. ‘Fruit’ is an uncountable noun. And if the owner wished to be grammatically correct, the sign should have read “Shakti Fruit.’
But what are uncountable nouns? Uncountable nouns are nouns that cannot be counted. They can be either abstract nouns (love, peace) or concrete nouns (sugar, furniture).
Here are the main points you need to keep in mind:
a. With an uncountable noun, we do not use an ‘s’. And so we cannot have ‘fruits’.
b. Also, we cannot use indefinite articles (a,an) with uncountable nouns. We should not say: a fruit.
Let’s look at some common errors made with uncountable nouns:
- “Can I ask for an advice?”
This is incorrect. Advice is uncountable. You can say: “Can I ask for some advice?”
2. The ten equipments are in the storeroom.
Equipment is uncountable. Instead, we can say: The ten pieces of equipment are in the storeroom.
3. She knows a lot about Japanese business etiquettes.
You guessed it… Etiquette is an uncountable noun. The sentence should read: She knows a lot about Japanese business etiquette.
And now, I’m sure that you can identify the grammatical error in this photo:
This message is from my local gym. What caught my eye was the unnecessary apostrophe in ‘Saturdays’.
Apostrophes are terrible easy to use. And yet, there are often misused. As in most things in life, you just have to be clear as to how to use them. Here are three common uses:
- To show possession
girl’s (singular) girls’ (plural)
2. After time expressions
One week’s time
Two weeks’ time (note that the apostrophe in this case comes after the ‘s’)
3. For informal speech
do not becomes don’t
I am becomes I’m
you are becomes you’re
Pay attention when you see: it’s
It’s can be ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. It depends on the context. Look at these two examples:
a. It’s raining! (It is)
b. It’s been nice speaking with you. (It has)
If you wish to write anything in its plural form, such as protein shakes, push-ups, and Saturdays, there is no need to add an apostrophe. Don’t do it.
And yes, there are exceptions. We use apostrophes when we talk of minding your P’s and Q’s. But, I think you knew that already…
Indianisms are words / phrases that are particular to India.
In this photo, departmental is an Indianism. In the US, the word would be replaced with department. We do use the word departmental, but in a different context. For example, Rani attends a departmental meeting. After the meeting, she buys accessories at a department store.
There are other words and expressions which qualify as Indianisms:
- No issues. This is fine when used among Indians. If you work in an international setting, you could say instead: ‘no worries’ or ‘no problem’.
- Concerned department. Concerned person. In the US, people say relevant department or relevant person. To my ears, this sounds better.
- Godown. In the US and UK a godown becomes a warehouse.
The photo is of a bridge near my home. If you can peer through the Delhi smog, you’ll spot some writing: Qasim love Shasli.
I wish Qasim well. But, I would like to point out a grammatical error. It should read: Qasim loves Shasli.
This type of grammatical error happens when the subject and verb do not agree. The absence of subject-verb agreement is a very common error.
Let’s look at the verb: to love. Here are its different forms in the present tense:
He loves / She loves
Qasim loves / Shasli loves
Other verbs receive the same treatment. I like becomes Rahul likes. And I meet becomes she meets.
The next time you hear someone speak, keep your ears peeled for subject-verb agreement. You may be surprised to hear how many times the subject and verb just don’t agree!