Why are people leaving out the indefinite article ‘a’ before seemingly random nouns?

I’ve heard mostly British English people say ‘He went to hospital’ or ‘She is matriculated at university’. I’ve never understood this but accepted it as a quirk of the language like so many others. Lately I’ve heard instances on the radio where this has been applied to seemingly random nouns. The example I heard this … Read more

plural/singular agreement

After some research, I have become more confused than before. Which is correct? The students were writing at their desks. But upon closer examination, the writing on the paper turned out to be illustrations. The students were writing at their desks. But upon closer examination, the writings on the papers turned out to be illustrations. … Read more

Singular or plural verb form

I have problems with this sentence. “Two weeks off work sounds great or sound great”. What form of the verb should I use in this case (and in similar sentences), if “weeks” is a plural noun? Answer The verb should be “sounds,” because the verb’s subject should contain the implied gerund “taking,” as in “Taking … Read more

Singular they = general they

Well, here is the situation. I have four students. They did a test. Suppose that the regulation is a student getting a score below 40 gets the remark “study hard” which is written at the bottom of the work instead of a numerical score. When I want to confirm this, may I say: They get … Read more

Should I use plural or singular form in the following sentence?

The sincerity of pronouncements by multinationals is/are anybody’s guess. My understanding is “sincerity” is an uncountable noun, and should be followed by “is”, but it does feel a little weird to use the singular form when it is modified by “multinationals” which is clearly plural. I feel like this is a very basic grammar question … Read more

Can a plural subject be followed by a complement beginning “a…”?

Can anyone kindly explain why this sentence is correct? Complex musical numbers are a defining characteristic of most Italian films. Answer In a comment, John Lawler wrote: A defining characteristic of Italian films is not a subject; it is a noun phrase that is the predicate of the sentence, following the be form that is … Read more