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Commonly Confused Words: Singulars and Plurals

Whether you’re a writer, a student, a parent, or just somebody who lives in an area where others speak English, these are some words that you should know.  They are the most misused words I’ve come across in regards to the amount of each being used.

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Analysis-AnalysesAnalysis/Analyses: Believe it or not, the plural form of analysis is not actually “analysisis.”  In fact, “analysisis” is not a word at all, and yet I often hear it uttered in everyday conversation.  The plural form of analysis is most certainly “analyses,” pronounced uh-nal-uh-seez.

If you’re talking about one study, it would be “analysis.”  If more than one study is being spoken about, you would use “analyses.”


Basis/Bases: I’ve heard the plural form of basis used in a few ways, though only one of them is actually correct.  Just like analysis, the plural form of basis ends with the seez sound.

In this context, the word bases is not being used as the plural form of base, like one of the stations of a baseball field.  Had it been used that way, the plural form would be pronounced bay-siz.  Since we’re talking about the plural form of basis, though, the word should be pronounced bay-seez.

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Crisis-CrisesCrisis/Crises: Here’s another plural form which does not end with the sound iss-iz.  This is one which I have heard uttered by people trying to report the news, which seems pretty embarrassing.

The plural form of crisis is definitely pronounced krahy-seez.

If two people each had their own mid-life crisis, collectively, it would be “mid-life crises,” not “mid-life crisisis.”

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Criterion-CriteriaCriterion/Criteria: I don’t think I have actually heard the singular version of criteria spoken aloud.

True, in most cases the person would be speaking of more than one criterion, but in rare cases, you will find the need to talk about just one standard or principle.  At that time, you would use “criterion.”

Apparently, the plural form of the word is sometimes “criterions,” as well.  However, I wouldn’t go ahead and start using that instead of criteria.

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Datum-DataDatum/Data: Just like its plural form, datum is often pronounced in two ways: dey-tum or dah-tum.  Either would be correct.  You would not be correct if you used the word data while talking about one single item.  Whereas data would be a collection of items, a datum would be just one item of that collection.

Since the term data has been used so frequently as a singular word, it is likely that you will hear “data is” instead of “data are,” though the latter would technically be the correct version.

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Diagnosis-DiagnosesDiagnosis/Diagnoses:  Wow!  Another word that does not end with the iss-iz sound.

The correct plural form of diagnosis is pronounced dahy-ugg-no-seez.  I think maybe people believed the plural form was “diagnosisis” because it’s so close to “diagnostics.”  While they may be in the same field of study, one ends with ic, while the other ends with is, so it’s not likely that their plural forms would have the same ending, either.

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Focus-FociFocus/Foci: Technically, the plural form of focus is “foci.”  That is, if the word is being used as a noun.

If the word is being used as a verb, you would say, “focuses.”

For example, you wouldn’t say, “He foci hard on his work.”  Instead, you would use “focuses.”  However, if you’re talking about the geometric points or focal points, you would not be correct.  The correct term would then be “foci.”

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Index-IndicesIndex/Indices: The word indices is a very rare find when talking about more than one index.  Indexes is now commonly accepted as the plural form, but it should not be the sole plural version used for all instances.

If you’re talking about the alphabetical listings in the back of a book, you can certainly use “indexes.”  However, if you’re talking about statistics and the like, you should probably use “indices,” pronounced in-duh-seez.  You will often see the former used in newspaper articles about the stock markets, but don’t let them fool you.

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Medium-MediaMedium/Media: Here’s another one I’ve seen in the media business–or should I say, “medium”?  No, I shouldn’t, unless I’m talking about psychics.  Speaking of which, if psychics are your topics of discussion, you would say, “mediums.”  If you’re talking about the different areas communication, you would say, “media.”

What most people do not seem to realize is that media itself is not singular.  If you are talking about just one area of communication, it would be “medium.”

Commonly-Confused-Words-Singulars-Plurals-Phenomenon-PhenomenaPhenomenon/Phenomena: Speaking of psychics, here’s another pair of words often misused.  Unlike the rest, I’ve heard both the singular and the plural forms used–but both in the wrong way.

Just like medium, the plural form of phenomenon has an a at the end of it, making it “phenomena.”  However, “phenomenons” has often been used as the plural form.  In many instances, people use one or the other for both singular and plural usage, but that would definitely be incorrect.

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