English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

20 August, 2023

This is a guide to help learners to communicate easily in both speech and writing through a better understanding of the English language.
Pidgin / pigeon
‘Pidgin’ is a language that is a mixture of two other languages which people who do not speak each other’s languages well use to talk to each other.
The pigeon is a grey bird with short legs that is common in cities. A pigeon-chested person is someone who has a very narrow chest that sticks out. A pigeonhole is a small open box fixed to a wall. People leave letters and messages in the pigeonhole. A pigeon-toed person has feet that turn towards each other as they walk.
Piteous / pitiable / pitiful
‘Piteous’ means ‘expressing suffering and sadness in a way that makes you feel pity.’ The beggar gave a long piteous cry.
‘Pitiable’ means ‘making you feel pity.’ Have you seen the agony of the pitiable victims of war?
Someone who is pitiful looks or sounds so sad and unfortunate that you feel very sorry for them. The old man was a pitiful sight.
‘Pleonasm’ means ‘the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea. Although it can be used for emphasis, it should be avoided.
Plural forms
As a general rule, nouns in English add ‘-s’ to the singular to form the plural. The words ending in ‘s, ss, x, z, sh’ and ‘ch’ form the plural by adding ‘-es.’
Gas: gases
Boss: bosses
Box: boxes
Quiz: quizzes
Branch: branches
Bush: bushes
Some nouns which have ‘-s’ in the singular do not change in the plural.
Some nouns are used only in the plural.
Nouns ending in ‘-y’ preceded by a consonant from their plurals by changing ‘-y’ into ‘-i’ and adding ‘-es.’
Duty: duties
Lady: ladies
A noun ending in ‘-y’ and preceded by a vowel form its plural by adding ‘-s.’
Donkey: donkeys
Play: plays
Nouns ending in ‘-o’ may form their plurals by adding either ‘-os’ or –oes.’
Cargo: cargoes
Banjo: banjoes
Potato: potatoes
Photo: photos
Folio: folios
Nouns ending in ‘-f’ or ‘-fe’ usually form their plural by changing the ‘-f’ or ‘-fe’ to ‘-v’ and adding ‘es.’
Leaf: leaves
Thief: thieves
Wife: wives
Life: lives
Some nouns simply add an ‘s’ to make the plural.
Proof: proofs
Cliff: cliffs
Relief: reliefs
Compound words normally form their plural by adding ‘-s’ to the most important part of the compound.
Commander-in-Chief: Commanders-in-Chief
Brother-in-law: brothers-in-law
Sister-in-law: sisters-in-law
Go-between: go-betweens
Court-martial: courts martial
When the compound is considered as one word and normally written without a hyphen, the ‘-s’ is added at the end.
Mouthful: mouthfuls
Step son: step sons
Sergeant-major: sergeant-majors
To make the plural of proper nouns ending in ‘-s,’ add ‘-es’
The Joneses
The Davies
The Pierises
The Diases
Names ending in ‘-y’ do not change to ‘-ies’in the plural
The Henrys
The Harrys
The Marys
Pluralism / pluralist / plurality / pluralise
‘Pluralism’ is the existence of different types of people, who have different beliefs and opinions, within the same society. After years of state control, the country is now moving towards political pluralism. A pluralist is someone who believes that the existence of different types of people, beliefs and opinions within a society is a good thing. Plurality is the state of being plural. ‘Pluralise’ means to make into a form which expresses more than one. Certain nouns such as ‘guilt’ cannot be pluralised.
Plutocracy / plutocrat
Plutocracy is a system of government in which the richest people in country rule or have power. It’s time we put an end to plutocracy. A plutocrat is someone who becomes powerful because they are rich. There are countries ruled by plutocrats.
p.m. / PM
p.m. or pm is used when referring to a time in the afternoon or evening or night. The visitors will arrive at 4.30 p.m. PM is the abbreviation for Prime Minister.
The PM will now address the meeting.