Engleza - Olga Stroia

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Olga Stroia GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION (Note de curs, anI Admin. Publica )

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Olga Stroia


(Note de curs, anI Admin. Publica)


Unwritten character

The British constitution is not written in a basic document or group of documents.

Continuity of development

It has evolved over the centuries with but few sudden or dramatic changes, and high degree of historical continuity has been maintained as the constitution has been brought up to date. Of the modern institutions of government, some are still rooted in medieval origins. But the constitution is not a museum piece. The greater part of Britains constitutional law has been made in this century.

Parliamentary sovereignty

Parliament as a legislative body can enact any law whatsoever on any subject whatsoever in the eyes of United Kingdom courts, according to the generally held view. Changes in rules of constitutional law can be effected by ordinary legislation.

Law and convention

Particularly in the working of the executive branch of government and its relationship with the Legislature, the constitution is regulated to a large extent by rules which do no belong to the normal legal categories. These rules are called constitutional conventions. They are rules of political conduct or binding usages, most of which are capable of being varied or of simply disappearing as political conditions and ideas change. If conventions are to be classified as rules of constitutional law, then the term 'law' must be given a very broad meaning. To use the term 'law' in more than one sense is not in itself unusual. Sometimes it is convenient to contrast constitutional convention with 'strict law'. Thus, in strict law (by virtue of the royal prerogative) the Queen can dismiss her Ministers at pleasure. By convention this legal power is exercisable only in very extraordinary circumstances. And because it is well understood that, save in exceptional circumstances, the Queen must act in accordance with ministerial advice, Parliament still adopts the form of conferring discretionary powers on Her Majesty. This dichotomy of law and convention pervades much of our constitutional law.


The absence of a cumbersome procedure for altering rules of constitutional importance, the omnicompetence of Parliament and the pliability of many constitutional conventions tend to make the British constitution flexible and easily adaptable. ( ... )

Unitary nature

The United Kingdom is a unitary, not a federal, State, at the present time. If it were a federal State, Parliament would not be omnicompetent.

Limited monarchy

Succession to the throne is hereditary. The functions of the head of State are primarily ceremonial, and despite their amplitude in strict law they are now of little or no political significance in normal times.


The upper House of Parliament, the House of Lords, still constituted mainly on a hereditary basis, is of minor importance; the lower House, the elected House of Commons, is the focus of political attention.

Parliamentary Executive

The political arm of the executive branch of government is recruited from and located within Parliament, and the Cabinet is collectively 'responsible' to Parliament in general and the House of Commons in particular. A Government would either have to resign or go to the country if it were to forfeit the support of a majority in the Commons.

Executive dominance in the Legislature

Because of the structure of modern British political parties, and the operation of the electoral system and certain constitutional rules, the Government in office is normally able to command parliamentary support for the implementation of almost any policy that it is in practice likely to adopt. The Government has indeed to be responsive to parliamentary opinion, as well as to the weight of opinion in the electorate at large, but one must not imagine that it is in any real sense a delegate or agent of Parliament. Parliamentary government is not governed by Parliament. The Government governs in and through Parliament. At the same time, it would be erroneous to speak in terms of 'Cabinet dictatorship'. A Government operates within a complex network of constraints, restricting its freedom of manoeuvre.

Judicial independence

The Judiciary is appointed by the Executive, but it is conspicuously independent both of the Executive and of the Legislature. ( ... )

Read the following considerations about the word constitutional, its meanings and its opposites as given in A Dictionary of Modem Legal Usage by Bryan A. Garner. Write sentences with each meaning and each opposite:

constitutional should not generally be capitalized, though Constitution (in reference to the United States Constitution or any particular constitution) should be. The adjective has two meanings: (1) "of or relating to the Constitution" (constitutional rights); and (2) "proper under Constitution" (constitutional actions).

Here is an illustration of sense (l): The diversion of a job to a competitor is not an invasion of a constitutional right."

And here of sense (2): "The Wisconsin statute which is similar to the NorrisLa Guardia Act, has also been held constitutional. The opposite of constitutional sense (1) is nonconstitutional and in sense (2) is unconstitutional. UNIT 2. GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION


Britain is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. The British constitution, unlike those of most other countries, is not set out in any single document. Instead it is made up of statute law, common law and conventions. Conventions are rules and practices which are not legally enforceable but which are regarded as indispensable to the working of government.

Constitutional Reforms

The Government held separate referendums in Scotland and Wales in 1997 which confirmed popular demand tot devolving power from Parliament at Westminster to a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly. Legislation is before Parliament to implement the devolution settlements.

In a referendum in May, 1998, the residents of London voted in favour of having a directly elected mayor and assembly of 2,5 members.

Legislation is before Parliament to enact a Code of Rights which would incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law.

Other major proposals include increasing the openness of government through the introduction of' freedom of information legislation; modernising the procedures of the House of Commons, and reforming the House of Lords.


The Monarchy is the oldest institution of government, going back to at least the 9th century. The only interruption in the monarchy was the republic of 164960.


The Queen is not only head of State, but also an important symbol of national unity. In law she is:

head of the executive;

an integral part of the legislature;

head of the judiciary;

commanderinchief of all the armed forces of the Crown;

the 'supreme governor' of the established Church of England.

As a result of a long process of evolution, during which the monarchy's absolute power has been progressively reduced, the Queen acts on the advice of her ministers. Britain is governed by Her Majesty's Government in the name of the Queen. In spite of a trend during the past hundred years towards giving powers directly to ministers, the Queen still takes part in some important acts of government. These include summoning, proroguing discontinuing until the next session without dissolution and dissolving Parliament; and giving Royal Assent to Bills passed by Parliament. The Queen also formally appoints many important office holders, including government ministers, judges, officers in the armed forces, diplomats, bishops and some other senior clergy of the Church of England. She is also involved in pardoning people convicted of crimes; and conferring peerages, knighthoods and other honours .

An important function is appointing the Prime Minister: by convention the Queen invites the leader of the political party which commands a majority in the House of Commons to form a government.

In international affairs the Queen, as head of State, has the power to declare war and make peace, to recognise foreign states and governments, to conclude treaties and to annex or cede territory. With rare exceptions such as appointing the Prime Minister acts involving the use of 'royal prerogative' powers are nowadays performed by government ministers. The ministers are responsible to Parliament and can be questioned about particular policies. Parliamentary authority is not required for the exercise of these prerogative powers, although Parliament may restrict or abolish such rights.

The Queen also holds Privy Council meetings, gives audiences to her ministers and officials in Britain and overseas, receives accounts of Cabinet decisions, reads dispatches and signs state papers. Provision has been made to appoint a regent to perform these royal functions should the Queen be totally incapacitated. In the event of her partial incapacity or absence abroad, the Queen may delegate certain royal functions to the Counsellors of State, who are members of the royal family.


The three elements which make up Parliament the Queen, the House of Lords and the elected House of Commons are constituted on different principles. They meet together only on occasions of symbolic significance such as the state opening of Parliament, when the Commons are summoned by the Queen to the House of Lords. The agreement of all three elements is normally required for legislation, but that of the Queen is given as a matter of course to Bills sent to her.

Parliament can legislate for Britain as a whole, or for any part of the country. It can also legislate for the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are Crown dependencies and not part of Britain. They have local legislatures which make laws on island affairs.

As there are no legal restraints imposed by a written constitution, Parliament may legislate as it pleases, subject to Britain's obligations as a member of the European Union. It can make or change any law; and can overturn established conventions or turn them into law. It can even prolong its own life beyond the normal period without consulting the electorate.

In practice, however, Parliament does not assert its supremacy in this way. Its members bear in mind the common law and normally act in accordance with precedent. The validity of an Act of Parliament, once passed, cannot be disputed in the law courts. The House of Commons is directly responsible to the electorate, and in this century the House of Lords has recognised the supremacy of the elected chamber. The system of party government helps to ensure that Parliament legislates with its responsibility to the electorate in mind.

THE FUNCTIONS OF PARLIAMENTThe main functions of Parliament are:

to pass laws;

to provide, by voting for taxation, the means of carrying on the work of' government;

to scrutinise government policy and administration, including proposals for expenditure;

to debate the major issues of the day.

In carrying out these functions Parliament helps to bring the relevant facts and issues before the electorate. By custom, Parliament is also informed before all important international treaties and agreements are ratified. The making of treaties is, however, a royal prerogative exercised on the advice of the Government and is not subject to parliamentary approval.

THE MEETING OF PARLIAMENTParliament has a maximum duration of five years, but in practice general elections are usually held before the end of this term. The maximum life has been prolonged by legislation in are circumstances such as the two world wars. Parliament is dissolved and writs for a general election are ordered by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The life of a Parliament is divided into sessions. Each usually lasts one year normally beginning and ending in October or November. There are 'adjournments' at night, at weekends, at Christmas, Easter and the late Spring Bank Holiday, and during long summer break usually starting in late July. The average number of 'sitting' days in a session is about 160 in the House of Commons and about 145 in the House of Lords. At the start of each session the Queen's speech to Parliament outlines the Government's policies and proposed legislative programme. Each session is ended by prorogation. Parliament then 'stands prorogued' for about a week until the new session opens.

Public Bills which have not been passed by the end of the session are lost.


The House of Lords consists of all hereditary peers and peeresses of England, Scotland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom; life peers created to assist the House in its judicial duties (Lords of Appeal or 'law lords'); all other life peers; and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester, and the 21 senior bishops of the Church of England.

Hereditary peerages carry a right to sit in the House provided they claim and are aged 21 years or over. However, anyone succeeding to a peerage may, within 12 months of succession, disclaim that peerage for his or her free time. Disclaimants lose their right to sit in the House but gain the right to vote and stand as candidates at parliamentary elections. Peerages, both hereditary and life, are created by the sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. They are usually granted in recognition of service in politics or other walks of life because one of the political parties wishes to have the recipient in the House of Lords. The House also provides a place in Parliament for people who offer useful advice, but do not wish to be involved in party politics. In addition, senior judges are given peerages as Lords of Appeal.

In mid 1997 there were 1,205 members of the House of Lords, including the two archbishops and 24 bishops. There were 752 hereditary peers who had succeeded to their titles, 10 hereditary peers who had had their titles conferred on them, including the Prince of Wales, and 406 life peers, of whom 21 were 'law lords'.

The House is presided over by the Lord Chancellor, who is exofficio Speaker of the House.


The House of Commons consists of 659 Members of Parliament (MPs) directly elected by voters in each of Britain's 659 parliamentary constituencies. At present there are 120 women and nine black or Asian MPs. Of the 659 seats, 529 are for England, 40 for Wales, 72 for Scotland and 18 for Northern Ireland.

General elections are held after a Parliament has been dissolved and a new one summoned by the Queen. When an MP dies or resigns, or is given a peerage, a byelection takes place. Members are paid an annual salary of 43,860 from January 1997 and an office costs allowance of up to 47,568. There are also a number of other allowances, including travel allowances, a supplement for London members and, for members with constituencies a long way from London, subsistence allowances and allowances for second homes.

Officers of the House of Commons

The chief officer of the House of Commons is the Speaker, elected by MPs to preside over the House. Other officers include the three Deputy Speakers who are elected by the House on the nomination of the Government but are drawn from the opposition as well as the government party. They, like the Speaker, neither speak nor vote other than in their official capacity.

Permanent officers who are not MPs include the Clerk of the House of Commons, who is the principal adviser to the Speaker on the Commons' privileges and procedures, and the SergeantatArms, who waits on the Speaker, and is responsible for security.


The Government is formed by the party with majority support in the Commons. The Queen appoints its leader as Prime Minister. As head of the Government, the Prime Minister appoints about 100 ministers, of whom about 20 are in the Cabinet the senior group which takes major policy decisions. Ministers are collectively responsible for government decisions and individually responsible for their own government departments. The largest minority party forms the official Opposition, with its own leader and shadow cabinet. The Opposition has a duty to challenge government policies and to present an alternative programme.

Policies are implemented by government departments and executive agencies staffed by politically impartial civil servants. They serve the government of the day regardless of its political complexion.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life considers the conduct of MPs and civil servants and makes recommendations designed to ensure, that the highest standards are maintained.

Citizen's Charter

The Citizen's Charter, launched in 1991, aims to raise the standard of public services and make them more responsive to their users. The Charter, which applies to all public services and privatised utilities, sets out a number of key levels of service which users of public services are entitled to expect. Most major public services have published separate charters.

Civil Service

The number of civil servants fell from 751,000 in 1976 to 476,000 in April 1997, reflecting the Government's policy of controlling the cost of the Civil Service and of improving its efficiency.

The Next Steps Programme, launched in 1988, aims to deliver government services more efficiently, and effectively. It has involved setting tip, as far as is practicable, separate units or agencies to perform the executive functions of government for example, the payment of social security benefits and the issuing of passports and drivers' licences.

A Civil Service Code provides a statement of the constitutional framework within which all civil servants work, and the values they are expected to uphold.


Elected local authorities exercise, powers and duties given to them by Parliament. These include providing housing, education, personal social services, police and fire services. Local authorities raise revenue through the council lax (a local tax on domestic property), although their revenue spending is financed primarily by grants from central government and by the redistribution of revenue from the national nondomestic rate (a property tax levied on business and other non-domestic properties)

The structure of local government in England, Scotland and Wales has changed during the last five years:

in some nonmetropolitan areas in England the twotier structure of counties and smaller districts has been replaced by singletier or unitary authorities, especially in larger cities; the restructuring was completed by April 1998.

in Scotland in April 1996, 29 new singletier councils replaced the previous nine regional and 53 district councils three islands councils have remained in being;

in Wales, also in April 1996, 22 singletier authorities replaced the previous eight county, councils and 37 district councils.


Verb Structures and Patterns

This guide provides a look at common verb structures and patterns used in English. Each structure is explained and an example of correct usage is given.

Verb TypeExplanationExamples

IntransitiveAn intransitive verb does not take a direct object-They're sleeping.-They arrived late.

TransitiveA transitive verb takes a direct object. The direct object can be a noun, a pronoun or a clause.-They bought the sweater.-He watched them.

LinkingA linking verb is followed by a noun or adjective which refers to the subject of the verb. -The meal looked wonderful.

Verb Patterns

Verb patterns are common in English. When two verbs are used, it is especially important to notice which form the second verb takes (infinitive - to do - base form - do - verb + ing - doing).

Verb PatternStructureExamples

verb + infinitiveThis is one of the most common verb combination forms.-I waited to begin dinner.-They wanted to come to the party.

verb + verb + ingThis is one of the most common verb combination forms.-They enjoyed listening to the music.-They regretted spending so much time on the project.

verb + indirect object + direct objectAn indirect object is usually placed before a direct object when a verb takes both an IO and DO.-I bought her a book.She asked him the question.

verb + object + infinitiveThis is the most common form when a verb is followed by both an object and a verb.-She asked her to find a place to stay. -They instructed them to open the envelope.

verb + object + base form (infinitive without to)This form is used with a few verbs (let, help and make).-She made her finish her homework. -They let him go to the concert.-He helped him paint the house.

verb + object + verb + ingThis form is less common than verb + object + infinitive. -I observed them painting the house.-I heard her singing in the living room.

verb + object + clause with thatUse this form for a clause beginning with that.-She told him that she would worker harder. -He informed him that he was going to resign.

verb + object + clause with wh-Use this form for a clause beginning with wh- (why, when, where)-They were instructed where to go.-She told me why she had done it.

verb + object + past participleThis form is often used when someone does something for someone else.-He had his car washed. -They want the report finished immediately

Compound Words

Partea superioar a machetei

Partea inferioar a machetei


In English, words, particularly adjectives and nouns, are combined into compound structures in a variety of ways. And once they are formed, they sometimes metamorphose over time. A common pattern is that two words fire fly, say will be joined by a hyphen for a time fire-fly and then be joined into one word firefly. In this respect, a language like German, in which words are happily and immediately linked one to the other, might seem to have an advantage. There is only one sure way to know how to spell compounds in English: use an authoritative dictionary.

There are three forms of compound words:

the closed form, in which the words are melded together, such as firefly, secondhand, softball, childlike, crosstown, redhead, keyboard, makeup, notebook;

the hyphenated form, such as daughter-in-law, master-at-arms, over-the-counter, six-pack, six-year-old, mass-produced;

and the open form, such as post office, real estate, middle class, full moon, half sister, attorney general.

How a word modified by an adjective "a little school," "the yellow butter" is different from a compound word " a high school," "the peanut butter" is a nice and philosophical question. It clearly has something to do with the degree to which the preceding word changes the essential character of the noun, the degree to which the modifier and the noun are inseparable. If you were diagramming a sentence with a compound word, you would probably keep the words together, on the same horizontal line.

Modifying compounds are often hyphenated to avoid confusion. The New York Public Library's Writer's Guide points out that an old-furniture salesman clearly deals in old furniture, but an old furniture salesman would be an old man. We probably would not have the same ambiguity, however, about a used car dealer. When compounded modifiers precede a noun, they are often hyphenated: part-time teacher, fifty-yard-wide field, fire-resistant curtains, high-speed chase. When those same modifying words come after the noun, however, they are not hyphenated: a field fifty yards wide, curtains that are fire resistant, etc. The second-rate opera company gave a performance that was first rate.

Comparative and superlative forms of adjectives are hyphenated when compounded with other modifiers: the highest-priced car, the shorter-term loan. But this is not always the case: the most talented youngster. Adverbs, words ending in -ly, are not hyphenated when compounded with other modifiers: a highly rated bank, a partially refunded ticket, publicly held securities.

Sometimes hyphenated modifiers lose their hyphens when they become compound nouns: A clear decision-making process was evident in their decision making. The bluish grey was slowly disappearing from the bluish-grey sky. This is not always so, however: your high-rise apartment building is also known as a high-rise.

When modifying a person with his or her age, the compounded phrase is hyphenated: my six-year-old son. However, when the age comes after the person, we don't use a hyphen. My son is six years old. He is, however, a six-year-old.

Plurals and Possessives

Most dictionaries will give variant spellings of compound plurals. When you have more than one truck filled with sand, do you have several truckfuls or trucksful? The dictionary will give you both, with the first spelling usually preferred. (And the same is true of teaspoonfuls, cupfuls, etc.) The dictionary will help you discover that only one spelling is acceptable for some compounds like passersby.

For hyphenated forms, the pluralizing -s is usually attached to the element that is actually being pluralized: daughters-in-law, half-moons, mayors-elect. The Chicago Manual of Style says that "hyphenated and open compounds are regularly made plural by the addition of the plural inflection to the element that is subject to the change in number" and gives as examples "fathers-in-law," "sergeants-in-arms," "doctors of philosophy," "and courts-martial" (196). The NYPL Writer's Guide puts it this way: "the most significant word generally the noun takes the plural form. The significant word may be at the beginning, middle, or end of the term" (396). And then we get examples such as "attorneys at law," "bills of fare," chiefs of staff," notaries public," assistant attorneys general," "higher-ups," "also-rans," and "go-betweens."

Note: some dictionaries will list "attorney generals" along with "attorneys general" as acceptable plurals of that office. Whether that's a matter of caving in to popular usage or an inability to determine the "significant word" is unknown.

As a general rule, then, the plural form of an element in a hierarchical term belongs to the base element in the term, regardless of the base element's placement:

first sergeants

sergeants major

sergeants first class

colonel generals [Russian]

lieutenant generals

lieutenant colonels

apprentice, journeyman, and master mechanics

deputy librarians

deputy assistant secretaries of state

The possessive of a hyphenated compound is created by attaching an apostrophe -s to the end of the compound itself: my daughter-in-law's car, a friend of mine's car. To create the possessive of pluralized and compounded forms, a writer is wise to avoid the apostrophe -s form and use an "of" phrase (the "post genitive") instead: the meeting of the daughters-in-law, the schedule of half-moons. Otherwise, the possessive form becomes downright weird: the daughters-in-law's meeting, friends of mine's cars.

One of the most difficult decisions to make about possessives and plurals of compound words occurs when you can't decide whether the first noun in a compound structure is acting as a noun that ought to be showing possession or as what is called an attributive noun, essentially an adjective. In other words, do we write that I am going to a writers conference or to a writers' conference? The Chicago Style Manual suggests that if singular nouns can act as attributive nouns city government, tax relief then plural nouns should be able to act as attributive nouns: consumers group, teachers union. This principle is not universally endorsed, however, and writers must remember to be consistent within a document.

Exceptions include:

compounds in which the second element is capitalized or a number:

anti-Semitic, pre-1998, post-Freudian

compounds which need hyphens to avoid confusion

un-ionized (as distinguished from unionized), co-op

compounds in which a vowel would be repeated (especially to avoid confusion)

co-op, semi-independent, anti-intellectual (but reestablish, reedit)

compounds consisting of more than one word

non-English-speaking, pre-Civil War

compounds that would be difficult to read without a hyphen

pro-life, pro-choice, co-edited

Also, when we combine compound nouns, we would use a hyphen with the first, but not the last: when under- and overdeveloped nations get together. . . .

Plural Noun Forms

The plural form of most nouns is created simply by adding the letter s. more than one snake = snakes

more than one ski = skis

more than one Barrymore = Barrymores

Words that end in -ch, x, s or s-like sounds, however, will require an -es for the plural:

more than one witch = witches

more than one box = boxes

more than one gas = gases

more than one bus = buses

more than one kiss = kisses

more than one Jones = Joneses

Note that some dictionaries list "busses" as an acceptable plural for "bus." Presumably, this is because the plural "buses" looks like it ought to rhyme with the plural of "fuse," which is "fuses." "Buses" is still listed as the preferable plural form. "Busses" is the plural, of course, for "buss," a seldom used word for "kiss."

There are several nouns that have irregular plural forms. Plurals formed in this way are sometimes called mutated (or mutating) plurals.

more than one child = children

more than one woman = women

more than one man = men

more than one person = people

more than one goose = geese

more than one mouse = mice

more than one barracks = barracks

more than one deer = deer

And, finally, there are nouns that maintain their Latin or Greek form in the plural. (See media and data and alumni, below.)

more than one nucleus = nuclei

more than one syllabus = syllabi

more than one focus = foci

more than one fungus = fungi

more than one cactus = cacti (cactuses is acceptable)

more than one thesis = theses

more than one crisis = crises*

more than one phenomenon = phenomena

more than one index = indices (indexes is acceptable)

more than one appendix = appendices (appendixes is acceptable)

more than one criterion = criteria

*Note the pronunciation of this word, crises: the second syllable sounds like ease. More than one base in the game of baseball is bases, but more than one basis for an argument, say, is also bases, and then we pronounce the word basease.

A handful of nouns appear to be plural in form but take a singular verb:

The news is bad.

Gymnastics is fun to watch.

Economics/mathematics/statistics is said to be difficult. ("Economics" can sometimes be a plural concept, as in "The economics of the situation demand that . . . .")

Numerical expressions are usually singular, but can be plural if the individuals within a numerical group are acting individually:

Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money.

One-half of the faculty is retiring this summer.

One-half of the faculty have doctorates.

Fifty percent of the students have voted already.

And another handful of nouns might seem to be singular in nature but take a plural form and always use a plural verb:

My pants are torn. (Nowadays you will sometimes see this word as a singular "pant" [meaning one pair of pants] especially in clothing ads, but most writers would regard that as an affectation.)

Her scissors were stolen.

The glasses have slipped down his nose again.

When a noun names the title of something or is a word being used as a word, it is singular whether the word takes a singular form or not.

Faces is the name of the new restaurant downtown.

Okies, which most people regard as a disparaging word, was first used to describe the residents of Oklahoma during the 1930s.

Chelmsley Brothers is the best moving company in town.

Postcards is my favorite novel.

The term Okies was used to describe the residents of Oklahoma during the 1930s. (In this sentence, the word Okies is actually an appositive for the singular subject, "term.")

Plural Compound Nouns

Compound words create special problems when we need to pluralize them. As a general rule, the element within the compound that word that is pluralized will receive the plural -s, but it's not always that simple. Daughters-in-law follows the general rule, but cupfuls does not.

Problem Children

Many careful writers insist that the words data and media are Latin plurals and must, therefore, be used as plural words. The singular Latin forms of these words, however, are seldom used: datum as a single bit of information or medium as a single means of communication. Many authorities nowadays approve sentences like My data is lost. and The media is out to get the President. Even textbooks in computer science are beginning to use "data" as a singular.

Alumni and alumnae remain problematic. The plural of masculine singular alumnus is alumni; the plural of feminine singular alumna is alumnae. In traditional Latin, the masculine plural form, alumni, could include both genders. This does not go over well with some female alums. We note, furthermore, that Vassar College, which now has both, has lists of alumni and alumnae. Hartford College for Women, we assume, has only alumnae. In its publication style manual, Wesleyan University approves of alumni/ae. The genderless graduate and the truncated and informal alum have much to commend them.

Special Cases

With words that end in a consonant and a y, you'll need to change the y to an i and add es. more than one baby = babies

more than one gallery = galleries(Notice the difference between this and galleys, where the final y is not preceded by a consonant.)

more than one reality = realitiesThis rule does not apply to proper nouns:

more than one Kennedy = Kennedys

Words that end in o create special problems.

more than one potato = potatoes

more than one hero = heroes. . . however . . .

more than one memo = memos

more than one cello = cellos. . . and for words where another vowel comes before the o . . .

more than one stereo = stereos

Plurals of words that end in -f or -fe usually change the f sound to a v sound and add s or -es. more than one knife = knives

more than one leaf = leaves

more than one hoof = hooves

more than one life = lives

more than one self = selves

more than one elf = elves

There are, however, exceptions:

more than one dwarf = dwarfs

more than one roof = roofs

When in doubt, as always, consult a dictionary. Some dictionaries, for instance, will list both wharfs and wharves as acceptable plural forms of wharf.

Collective Nouns, Company Names, Family Names, Sports Teams

There are, further, so called collective nouns, which are singular when we think of them as groups and plural when we think of the individuals acting within the whole (which happens sometimes, but not often): audience, band, class, committee, family, flock, group, heap, jury, kind, lot, number, public, staff, team.

Thus, if we're talking about eggs, we could say "A dozen is probably not enough." But if we're talking partying with our friends, we could say, "A dozen are coming over this afternoon." The jury delivers its verdict. [But] The jury came in and took their seats. We could say the Tokyo String Quartet is one of the best string ensembles in the world, but we could say the Beatles were some of the most famous singers in history. Generally, band names and musical groups take singular or plural verbs depending on the form of their names: "The Mamas and the Papas were one of the best groups of the 70s" and "Metallica is my favorite band."

Note that "the number" is a singular collective noun. "The number of applicants is steadily increasing." "A number," on the other hand, is a plural form: "There are several students in the lobby. A number are here to see the president."

Collective nouns are count nouns which means they, themselves, can be pluralized: a university has several athletic teams and classes. And the immigrant families kept watch over their herds and flocks.

The word following the phrase one of the (as an object of the preposition of) will always be plural.

One of the reasons we do this is that it rains a lot in spring.

One of the students in this room is responsible.

Notice, though, that the verb ("is") agrees with one, which is singular, and not with the object of the preposition, which is always plural.

When a family name (a proper noun) is pluralized, we almost always simply add an "s." So we go to visit the Smiths, the Kennedys, the Grays, etc.When a family name ends in s, x, ch, sh, or z, however, we form the plural by added -es, as in the Marches, the Joneses, the Maddoxes, the Bushes, the Rodriguezes. Do not form a family name plural by using an apostrophe; that device is reserved for creating possessive forms.

When a proper noun ends in an "s" with a hard "z" sound, we don't add any ending to form the plural: "The Chambers are coming to dinner" (not the Chamberses); "The Hodges used to live here" (not the Hodgeses). There are exceptions even to this: we say "The Joneses are coming over," and we'd probably write "The Stevenses are coming, too." A modest proposal: women whose last names end in "s" (pronounced "z") should marry and take the names of men whose last names do not end with that sound, and eventually this problem will disappear.

The names of companies and other organizations are usually regarded as singular, regardless of their ending: "General Motors has announced its fall lineup of new vehicles." Try to avoid the inconsistency that is almost inevitable when you think of corporate entities as a group of individuals: "General Motors has announced their fall lineup of new vehicles." But note that some inconsistency is acceptable in all but the most formal writing: "Ford has announced its breakup with Firestone Tires. Their cars will no longer use tires built by Firestone." Some writers will use a plural verb when a plural construction such as "Associates" is part of the company's title or when the title consists of a series of names: "Upton, Vernon, and Gridley are moving to new law offices next week" or "Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego & Associates have won all their cases this year." Singular verbs and pronouns would be correct in those sentences, also.

The names of sports teams, on the other hand, are treated as plurals, regardless of the form of that name. We would write that "The Yankees have signed a new third baseman" and "The Yankees are a great organization" (even if we're Red Sox fans) and that "For two years in a row, the Utah Jazz have attempted to draft a big man." When we refer to a team by the city in which it resides, however, we use the singular, as in "Dallas has attempted to secure the services of two assistant coaches that Green Bay hopes to keep." (This is decidedly not a British practice. In the UK, the city or country names by which British newspapers refer to soccer teams, for example, are used as plurals a practice that seems odd and inconsistent to American ears: "A minute's silence will precede the game at Le Stadium today, when Toulouse play Munster, and tomorrow at Lansdowne Road, when Leinster attempt to reach their first European final by beating Perpignan" [report in the online London Times].)

Plurals and Apostrophes

We use an apostrophe to create plural forms in two limited situations: for pluralized letters of the alphabet and when we are trying to create the plural form of a word that refers to the word itself. Here we also should italicize this "word as word," but not the 's ending that belongs to it. Do not use the apostrophe+s to create the plural of acronyms (pronounceable abbreviations such as laser and IRA and URL*) and other abbreviations. (A possible exception to this last rule is an acronym that ends in "S": "We filed four NOS's in that folder.")

Jeffrey got four A's on his last report card.

Towanda learned very quickly to mind her p's and q's.

You have fifteen and's in that last paragraph.

Notice that we do not use an apostrophe -s to create the plural of a word-in-itself. For instance, we would refer to the "ins and outs" of a mystery, the "yeses and nos" of a vote (NYPL Writer's Guide to Style and Usage), and we assume that Theodore Bernstein knew what he was talking about in his book Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage. We would also write "The shortstop made two spectacular outs in that inning." But when we refer to a word-as-a-word, we first italicize it I pointed out the use of the word out in that sentence. and if necessary, we pluralize it by adding the unitalicized apostrophe -s "In his essay on prepositions, Jose used an astonishing three dozen out's." This practice is not universally followed, and in newspapers, you would find our example sentence written without italics or apostrophe: "You have fifteen ands in that last paragraph."

Some abbreviations have embedded plural forms, and there are often inconsistencies in creating the plurals of these words. The speed of an internal combustion engine is measured in "revolutions per minute" or rpm (lower case) and the efficiency of an automobile is reported in "miles per gallon" or mpg (no "-s" endings). On the other hand, baseball players love to accumulate "runs batted in," a statistic that is usually reported as RBIs (although it would not be terribly unusual to hear that someone got 100 RBI last year and some baseball commentators will talk about "ribbies," too). Also, the U.S. military provides "meals ready to eat" and those rations are usually described as MREs (not MRE). When an abbreviation can be used to refer to a singular thing a run batted in, a meal ready-to-eat, a prisoner of war it's surely a good idea to form the plural by adding "s" to the abbreviation: RBIs, MREs, POWs. (Notice that no apostrophe is involved in the formation of these plurals. Whether abbreviations like these are formed with upper- or lower-case letters is a matter of great mystery; only your dictionary editor knows for sure.)

Notice, furthermore, that we do not use an apostrophe to create plurals in the following:

The 1890s in Europe are widely regarded as years of social decadence.

I have prepared 1099s for the entire staff.

Rosa and her brother have identical IQs, and they both have PhDs from Harvard.

She has over 400 URLs* in her bookmark file.

Authority for this last paragraph: Keys for Writers: A Brief Handbook by Ann Raimes. Houghton Mifflin: New York. 1996.

Singular Subjects, Plural Predicates, etc.

We frequently run into a situation in which a singular subject is linked to a plural predicate:

My favorite breakfast is cereal with fruit, milk, orange juice, and toast.

Sometimes, too, a plural subject can be linked to singular predicate:

Mistakes in parallelism are the only problem here.

In such situations, remember that the number (singular or plural) of the subject, not the predicate, determines the number of the verb.

A special situation exists when a subject seems not to agree with its predicate. For instance, when we want each student to see his or her counselor (and each student is assigned to only one counselor), but we want to avoid that "his or her" construction by pluralizing, do we say "Students must see their counselors" or "Students must see their counselor"? The singular counselor is necesssary to avoid the implication that students have more than one counselor apiece. Do we say "Many sons dislike their father or fathers"? We don't mean to suggest that the sons have more than one father, so we use the singular father. Theodore Bernstein, in Dos, Don'ts and Maybes of English Usage, says that "Idiomatically the noun applying to more than one person remains in the singular when (a) it represents a quality or thing possessed in common ("The audience's curiosity was aroused"); or (b) it is an abstraction ("The judges applied their reason to the problem"), or (c) it is a figurative word ("All ten children had a sweet tooth") (203). Sometimes good sense will have to guide you. We might want to say "Puzzled, the children scratched their head" to avoid the image of multi-headed children, but "The audience rose to their foot" is plainly ridiculous and about to tip over.

In "The boys moved their car/cars," the plural would indicate that each boy owned a car, the singular that the boys (together) owned one car (which is quite possible). It is also possible that each boy owned more than one car. Be prepared for such situations, and consider carefully the implications of using either the singular or the plural. You might have to avoid the problem by going the opposite direction of pluralizing: moving things to the singular and talking about what each boy did.

*The jury still seems to be out on whether URL (acronym for Uniform [or Universal] Resource Locator), the address of a Website on the World Wide Web, should be pronounced like the name of your Uncle Earl or as a series of letters: U*R*L. The information technology experts at the college where I work use the "earl" pronunciation, and one would have to ask why you'd want to say "you-are-ell" when a simple "earl" would suffice. In either case, though, the plural of URL would be spelled URLs. The New York Times, by the way, would insist on U.R.L.'s because their style guide requires that everything be capitalized in headlines and URLS would look dumb in a headline. So use URLs unless you're writing for the New York Times.Intensifying Adjectives

Intensifying Adjectives: Important Adjective Collocations

A collocation is a word pair, in this case adjective and noun, that always goes together. There are no specific rules for these collocations, however, it is important to learn some of the standard collocations. Here is a guide to collocations with deep, heavy, high (low) and strong.


deep depression, deep devotion, a deep feeling, deep pockets, deep sleep, in deep thought, in deep troubleHeavy

a heavy drinkerheavy raina heavy sleepera heavy smokerheavy snowheavy traffic

High - Low. Notice that a number of nouns (but not all) which take 'high' also take 'low'.

high - or low - costhigh - or low - densityhigh - or low - energyhigh - or low - esteema high - or low - expectation (of)a high - or low - level (of)a high - or low - opinion (of someone or something)high - or low - pressurea - or low - high pricehigh qualityhigh speed


strong criticismstrong deniala strong feelinga strong opinion (about something)a strong sense (of)a strong smella strong taste

Intensifying Adjectives

Intensifying Adjectives: Intensifying Non-Physical Objects

When describing physical objects you can use a wide variety of adjectives such as: large, big, tiny, minuscule, small, etc. However, when describing nouns that are not physical (e.g. joy, anger, wealth) you need to pay careful attention to the choice of intensifying adjectives. This feature provides a guide to the use of the most common intensifying adjectives for non-physical nouns.

Absolute / Complete / Total / Utter

Absolute, complete, total and utter are used to express strong feelings, extreme situations, and other events - especially negative experiences.

absolute agonycomplete astonishmenttotal bliss(an) utter catastropheabsolute despairtotal ecstasyutter furya complete idiotutter loathingtotal madness


Big tends to describe a happening or a type of person. It is not usually used with uncountable nouns.


a big decisiona big disappointmenta big improvementa big mistakea big surpriseTypes of Persons

a big eatera big dreamera big drinkera big spendera big talker


Great usually describes nouns which express feelings or qualities.

great admirationgreat angerin great detail(a) great disappointmentgreat enjoymentgreat excitementa great failuregreat fungreat happinessgreat joyat great lengtha great number (of)great powergreat pridea great quantity (of)great sensitivitygreat skillgreat strengthgreat understandinggreat wealth


Large is often used with nouns concerning numbers and measurements. It is not usually used with uncountable nouns.

a large amounta large number (of)a large populationa large proportiona large quantitya large scale


*** Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Longman, 1995

*** Britains System of Government, Foreign and Commonwealth*** Romanian Legislation, vol.38, Bucureti, 1999*** Codul penal romn, Ed. Lumina Lex, Bucureti, 1997

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