‘S’ in English grammar

The letter, “s”, is central to the grammaticality or otherwise of many English expressions. Since languages are rule-governed, it is pertinent to pay scrupulous attention to the standard forms of sentences, with a view to entrenching global intelligibility, over the course of engaging people of different races, colours and persuasions. With the foregoing in mind, this treatise will shed light on predominant instances of the ‘s’ being incorrectly omitted and inappropriately infused into English expressions, especially as observed in the language usage of the sizeable majority of non-native speakers.

For starters, anyone who wishes to be a good orator must be willing to go to any LENGTHS to acquire appreciable communicative proficiency. In that regard, note cautiously that the word, lengths, is invariably plural in the aforementioned context. In a similar vein, some humans can go to astonishing LENGTHS to become successful in their endeavours. Be that as it may, if you have a mentor who doubles as a public speaker in an English speaking country and, you hope to establish yourself along the same LINES, then you must understand grammatical intricacies bordering on where and where not to weave “s” into English expressions. Just like your choice of dress largely determines how you will be addressed, your language equally determines people’s appraisals of you, even if you are in SHORTS or KNICKERS (not short knicker). Coincidentally, are you aware that KNICKERS are exclusively worn by females?

As an aside, you can allot quality time to read books and peruse dictionaries for just one and a half HOURS daily. In the aftermath, eloquence will, most certainly, be the FRUITS of your labours. Consequent upon this, it bears mentioning that plural does not exactly begin with two. To set the record straight, plural entails anything that is more than one. In view of that, we should say one and a half HOURS (not hour) and one and a half KILOGRAMMES (not kilogramme). Similarly, the outcomes or rewards of one’s efforts are described as the FRUITS of one’s labours, although the “s” is depicted as optional in some dictionaries. Nevertheless, the foregoing justification should not be confused with the FRUIT we eat, which is uncountable, generally speaking.

To add to these critical disclosures, an individual who is well heeled or stinking rich is called a MONEYBAGS; not a moneybag. In lockstep with this rationalisation, “Aliko Dangote is a MONEYBAGS”. To proceed, mackerel is a SPECIES — not a specie — of fish. It, thus, stands to reason that “specie” is utterly non-existent in standard English lexicon. Be it singular or plural, therefore, SPECIES remains the same. Along these lines, it is of the essence to be aware that the mechanics and intricacies of something are called the INS and OUTS of it. Hence, “Gbenga knows the INS and OUTS (not in and out) of architecture”.

What is more, the lowest and arguably the most people-centric level in a thriving democracy is called the GRASSROOTS (not grassroot) level. Let me also admonish the wider readership that you need to consistently acquaint yourselves with international best practices, in order not to lose your BEARINGS (not BEARING) in life. Instructively, also, to exhibit your real character towards other people amounts to showing them your true COLOURS; not your true colour.

Furthermore, it is supremely important to affirm that when a place, vehicle, etc. is overcrowded, the people therein are packed like SARDINES. By implication, they are not packed like sardine or even “sandin”, as innumerable Nigerians are erroneously wont to say while growing up. Markedly, have you noticed restricted places within buildings being described as “out of bound”? In vivid contrast, you are expected to add the obligatory “s” to “bound” thus: a restricted place is said to be out of BOUNDS.

In that connection, such places that are designated out of bounds are occupied by those who work behind the SCENES. The people who work far away from the glare of the public, for instance, at a theatre or in an organisation, are said to work behind the SCENES; not behind the scene. Pointedly, as well, to subject someone to vicious corporal punishment is to beat the living DAYLIGHTS (not living daylight) out of that person. Contrariwise, some expressions should not feature the letter “s” in their standard forms.

First off, people who share the same sentiments, orientation and maxims are said to be of like MIND — not like minds.

Secondly, whenever any development occurs abruptly, it does so out of the BLUE (not out of the blues). Next to that, any individual that you love and cherish the most is the apple of your EYE; not the apple of your eyes. Additionally, the part of your legs that becomes flat, particularly when you are seated, is your LAP (not laps).

In the same vein, when you intend to refer to similar things or suggest more instances of something, the expression should portray “and the LIKE” as a suffix (not and the LIKES). Hence, illustratively, Professors Adeleke Fakoya and Oko Okoro, as well as Doctors Henry Hunjo, Mahfouz Adedimeji and Ganiu Bamgbose are of like MIND on issues concerning grammar, context, sociolinguistic variables and the LIKE. This is not to bore you with grammatical jargon, but fluency deserves a great deal of attention. To round off this treatise in tremendous style, note that the technical words used in a particular field are collectively referred to as JARGON (an uncount noun); not jargons.

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