Important Rules for Spotting Errors


1. Some nouns always take a singular verb. Scenery, advice, information, machinery, stationery, furniture, abuse, fuel, rice, gram, issue, bedding, repair, news, mischief, poetry, business, economics, physics, mathematics, classics, ethics, athletics, innings, gallows.

  • The scenery of Kashmir are enchanting. (Incorrect)
  • The scenery of Kashmir is enchanting. (Correct)
  • He has give advices. (Incorrect)
  • He has give advice. (Correct)
  • The Indian team defeated the English by innings. (Incorrect)
  • The Indian team defeated the English by an innings. (Correct)
  • Mathematics are a difficult subject.(Incorrect)
  • Mathematics is a difficult subject. (Correct)

Note: If you have to indicate that the number of news, advice information or furniture is more than one, the examples listed can be followed.

  • I have a lot of news to tell you.
  • He has sold many pieces of his furniture.

2. Some nouns are singular in form, but they are used as plural nouns and always take a plural verb.

Cattle, gentry, vermin, peasantry, artillery, people, clergy, company, police.

  • The cattle is grazing is the ground. (Incorrect)
  • The cattle are grazing is the ground. (Correct)
  • The clergy is in the church. (Incorrect)
  • The clergy are in the church (Correct)

3. Some nouns are always used in a plural form and always take a plural verb.

Trousers, scissors, spectacles, stockings, shorts, measles, goods, alms, premises, thanks, tidings, annals, chattels, etc.

  • Where is my trousers? (Incorrect)
  • Where are my trousers? (Correct)
  • Spectacles is now a costly item. (Incorrect)
  • Spectacles are now a costly item. (Correct)

4. There are some nouns that indicate length, measure, money, weight or number. When they are preceded by a numeral, they remain unchanged in form.

Foot, metre, pair, score, dozen head year, hundred, thousand, million.

  • It is a three years degree course. (Incorrect)
  • It is a three year degree course. (Correct)
  • I have ten dozens of shoes. (Incorrect)
  • I have ten dozen of shoes. (Correct)

5. Collective nouns such as jury, public, team, committee, government, audience, orchestra, company, etc. are used both as singular and plural depending in the meaning. When these words indicate a unit, the verb is singular, otherwise the verb will be plural.

  • The jury was divided in these case. (Incorrect)
  • The jury ware divided in these case. (Correct)
  • The team have not come as yet. (Incorrect)
  • The team has not come as yet.    (Correct)

6. Some nouns have one meaning in the singular and another in the plural:

Advice = counsel, advices = information,
air = atmosphere, airs = proud,
authority = command, authorities = person in power
good = wise, goods = property
force = strength, forces = army,
content = satisfaction, contents = things contained,
physic = medicine, physics = physical sciences,
respect = regards, respects = compliments
work = job, works = compositions, factories,
earning = income, earnings = sowings,
quarter= one-fourth quarters = houses,

  • Air is necessary for human life.
  • It is to put on airs.
  • I have eaten one quarter of the cake.
  • I live in the government quarters.

7. People are often confused or they commit mistakes in the use of certain nouns.

(a) Lecturership is wrong; lectureship is correct

  • There are twenty candidates for lecturership. (Incorrect)
  • There are twenty candidates for lectureship. (Correct)

(b) Freeship is wrong; free-studentship is correct

  • Ramesh has applied for freeship. (Incorrect)
  • Ramesh has applied for free-studentship. (Correct)

(c) Boarding is wrong; boarding house is correct

  • Mohan lives in a boarding. (Incorrect)
  • Mohan lives in a boarding house. (Correct)

(d) Family members is wrong; members of the family is correct.

  • Vivek and Ramesh are my family members. (Incorrect)
  • Vivek and Ramesh are the members of my family. (Correct)

(e) English teacher is wrong; the teacher of English is correct.

  • Dr Raina is our English teacher. (Incorrect)
  • Dr Raina is our teacher of English. (Correct)

(f) Cousin-brother or sister is wrong; only cousin is correct

  • Geeta is my cousin sister. (Incorrect)
  • Geeta is my cousin. (Correct)

(g) Room in a compartment or a bench means unoccupied seat.

  • There is no room on this bench.      (Correct)

(h) Ours, yours, here, theirs are correct

  • This house is our’s. (Incorrect)
  • This house is ours. (Correct)

Note: The same principle applies to ‘yours’, ‘hers’ and ‘theirs’.

(i) Wages means punishment when used in singular.

The wages of sin is death.

(j) It also means charges for the labour when used in plural sense.

The wages of daily workers have been raised.

8. Also remember the subtle differences in the usage of these pairs of nouns.

(a) The noun ‘habit’ applies only to an individual whereas ‘custom’ applies to a society or country.

  • Poor children often become a victim of bad habits.
  • tribals in India have many interesting customs.

(b) ‘cause’ produces a result, while ‘reason’ explains or justifies a causer.

  • Scientists try to find out the cause of a phenomenon.
  • You have a good reason to be pleased with your students.

(c) ‘Men’ is used in ordinary sense while ‘gentleman’ is a man of character.

  • Man is mortal.
  • He is a gentleman at large.

(d) ‘Men’ – plural of man; ‘people’ is used for persons.

  • There are five men in the room.
  • The people of Bihar are simple.

(e) ‘Shade’ – a place shelterd fro the sun; ‘shadow’ – the shade of a distiner form or object.

  • The villagers sat under the shade of trees.
  • He is even afraid of his own shadow.

(f) ‘Cost’ – amount paid by the shopkeeper; ‘price’ – amount paid by the customer.

  • The cost of production of automobile items has gone up.
  • Sometimes the buyers have to pay higher price for necessary items.

(g) ‘House’ – a building to live in; ‘Home’ – one’s native place.

  • Quarters are houses allotted to us for a definite period.
  • My home town is Muzaffarpur.

(h) ‘Customer’ – a buyer of goods; ‘Client’ – one who avails oneself of a service.

  • The shopkeepers welcome customers with smiles.
  • The lawyer discusses the cases of his clients.


9. A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in person, number and gender.

For example:

  • Every man must bring his luggage.
  • All students must do their home work.
  • Each of the girls must carry for own bag.
  1. Each student must bring their books.   (Incorrect)
  2. Each student must bring his books   (correct)

10. While using ‘everybody’, ‘anyone’, ‘anybody’ and ‘each’ the pronoun of the masculine or the feminine fender is used according to the content.

  • I shall be app to help each of the boys in this practice.
  • But when the sex is not mentioned, we use the pronoun if the masculine gender.
  • Anyone can do this job if be tries.
  1. Each of the six boys in the class has finished their task.           (Incorrect)
  2. Each of the six boys in the class has finished his task.               (Correct)

11. The pronoun ‘one’ must be followed by ‘one’s’.

  • One must finish his ask in time.            (Incorrect)
  • One must finish one’s task in time.        (Correct)

12. Enjoy, apply, resign, acquit, drive, exert, avail, pride, absent, etc. when used as transitive verbs, always take a reflexive pronoun after them. When ‘self’ is added to ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘him’, ‘her’ and ‘selves’ to ‘our’ and ‘them’ – they are known as reflexive pronouns.

  • He absented from the class.                           (Incorrect)
  • He absented himself from the class.           (Correct)

13. ‘Who’ denotes the subjects and ‘whom’ is used for the object?

  • Whom do you think won the award?        (Incorrect)
  • Who do you think won the award?                (Correct)
  • Who are you taking to?                                   (Incorrect)
  • Whom are you taking to?                                    (Correct

14. When two or more singular nouns are joined together by ‘either or’; ‘neither nor’; and ‘or’, the pronoun is singular.

  • Either Ram or Shyam will give their book. (Incorrect)
  • Either Ram or Shyam will give his books.       (Correct
  • Neither Ramesh nor Rajendra has done their work. (Incorrect)
  • Neither Ramesh nor Rajendra has done his work. (Correct)

15. When a singular and a plural noun are joined by ‘or’, ‘nor’, the pronoun must be plural.

  • Either the engineer or his mechanics failed in his duty.           (Incorrect)
  • Either the engineer or his mechanics failed in their duty.       (Correct)

16. ‘Whose’ is used for living persons and ‘which’ for lifeless objects?

  • Which photograph is lying there?                           (Incorrect)
  • Whose photograph is lying there?                           (Correct)
  • What book do you read?                                           (Incorrect)
  • Which book do you read?                                           (Correct)

17. ‘Each other’ is used when there are two subjects or objects and ‘one another’ when there are more than two.

  • Romeo and Juliet loved each other.
  • Those five friends, who are sitting there, love one another.
  • All the students of the class are friendly; they love each other.          (Incorrect)
  • All the students of the class are friendly; they love one another.       (Correct)

18. When a pronoun stands for a collective noun, it must be in the singular number and in the neuter gender if the collective noun is viewed as a whole.

  •  The jury gave ‘its’ verdict.

Here the ‘jury’ gives the idea of one whole.

If the collective noun conveys the idea of separate individuals comprising the whole, the pronoun standing for it must be plural.

  • The jury were divided in their opinions.

Here the ‘jury’ gives the idea of several individuals.

  1. The teams are divided in this opinion about playing on Sunday.  (Incorrect)
  2. The teams are divided in their opinion about playing on Sunday. (Correct)

19. If pronouns of different persons are to be use together in a sentence, the serial order of persons should be as follows: second person + third person + first person in a good normal sentence. But if a fault is to be confessed, the order will be: first person + second person + third person.

  • You, he and I have finished the work. (Normal sentence)
  • I, you and he are to blame.                        (Confession)
  • Ram, I and you have finished our studies. (Incorrect)
  • You Ram and I have finished our studies.    (Correct)

20. ‘Some’ is used in affirmative sentences to express quantity or degree. ‘Any’ is use in negative or interrogative sentences.

  • I shall buy some apples.
  • I shall not buy any apples.
  • Have you bought any apples?

But ‘some’ may be correctly used in interrogative sentences which are, in fact, request.

Will you please give me some milk?

  • I shall read any book.                                        (Incorrect)
  • I shall read some book.                                       (Correct)
  • Have you bought some apples?                   (Incorrect)
  • Have you bought any apples?                          (Correct)


21. The use of ‘few’, ‘a few’, and ‘the few’ should be used with care. They denote ‘number’.

‘Few’ means ‘not many’. It is the opposite of many. A ‘few’ is positive and means ‘some at least’. It is the opposite of none.

‘The few’ means ‘whatever there is’.

  • A few men are free from fault.      (Incorrect)
  • Few men are free from fault.             (Correct)

Here the sense is negative and thus ‘a few’ is wrong.

  • Few boys will pass in the examination.       (Incorrect)
  • A few boys will pass in the examination.       (Correct)

Here the sense is positive and thus ‘few’ is incorrect.

  • I have already read a few books that are on the bookshelf.  (Incorrect)
  • I have already read the few books that are on the bookshelf.   (Correct)

Here the sense is ‘whatever there is’




22. Use of ‘less’ and ‘fewer’.

‘Less’ denotes quantity and ‘fewer’ denotes number.

  • No less than fifty persons were killed.  (Incorrect)
  • No fewer than fifty person were killed.  (Correct)
  • There are no fewer than five litres of water in the jug.  (Incorrect)
  • There are no less than five litres of water in the jug.      (Correct)



23. Use of little, a little, the little.

‘Little’ means ‘hardly any’.

  • There is a little hope of his recovery.   (Incorrect)
  • There is little hope of his recovery.        (Correct)

‘A little’ means ‘some’, though not much.

  • Little knowledge is a dangerous thing. (Incorrect)
  • ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. (Correct)

‘The little’ means ‘not much but all there is’.

  • A little milk that is in the pot may be used for the patient.         (Incorrect)
  • The little milk that is in the pot may be used for the patient.     (Correct)



24. Use of elder, older.

‘Older’ refers to persons as well as things and is followed by ‘than’.

  • Ram is elder than all other boys of this area. (Incorrect)
  • Ram is older than all other boys of this area. (Correct)

‘Elder’ is used for members of the family.

  • Suresh is my older brother.                  (Incorrect)
  • Suresh is my elder brother.                     (Correct)



25. Normally ‘than’ is used in the comparative degree, but with words like superior, inferior, senior, junior, anterior, posterior, and prefer ‘to’ is used.

  • Shelley is junior than Wordsworth.       (Incorrect)
  • Shelley is junior to Wordsworth.             (Correct)
  • I prefer reading than sleeping.             (Incorrect)
  • I prefer reading than to sleeping.           (Correct)

26. when a comparison is made by using a comparative followed by ‘than’, the word ‘other’ must be used to exclude the thing compared from the class of things with which it is compared.

  • He is stronger than any man.       (Incorrect)
  • He is stronger than any other man.         (Correct)

‘any man’ includes the man himself and thus the sentence will be absurd.

27. In some cases, the comparison is subtle and must be given proper attention.

  • The climate of Ranchi is better than Gaya. (Incorrect)
  • Here the comparison should be between the climate of Ranchi and the climate of Gaya.
  • The climate of Ranchi is better than that of Gaya.          (Correct)


  • The climate of Ranchi is better than that of Gaya.          (Correct)
  • The scenery of Kashmir is better than Shimla. (Incorrect)
  • The scenery of Kashmir is better than that of Shimla.     (Correct)

‘That of’ means ‘the climate of’.

Note: If the traits are in plural, it will be ‘those of’.

The clothes of DCM are better than those of Mafatlal.

28. ‘Many a’ is always followed by the singular verb.

  • Many a man were drowned in the sea. (Incorrect)
  • Many a man was drowned in the sea. (Correct)

29. If the subject is ‘the number of’ thee singular verb is used.

  • The number of students are very small. (Incorrect)
  • The number of students is very small. (Correct)

It the subject is ‘a number of’, the plural verb is used.

  • Ram, as well as his ten friends, are going. (Incorrect)
  • Ram, as well as his ten friends, is going. (Correct)

30. When ‘as well as’, ‘along with’, ‘together with’, ‘no less than’. ‘In addition to’, and ‘not’ and ‘with’ join two subjects, the verb will be according to the first subject.

  • Ram, as well as his ten friends, are going.         (Incorrect)
  • Ram, as well as his ten friends, is going.            (Correct)
  • The teacher, along with the students, were going.        (Incorrect)
  • The teacher, along with the students, was going.            (Correct)


2 thoughts on “Important Rules for Spotting Errors

  • May 11, 2018 at 6:09 am

    Ram is older than his brother. this sentence is correct or incorrect

    • May 16, 2018 at 9:38 am

      This sentence is incorrect.
      “Ram is elder than his brother” is the correct sentence because Elder is used for the family member.


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