I am still confusing on when I should use plural form of noun.

For example, "Nancy survived her five-hour ordeal by following another intuition: She engaged the dangerous stranger in constant conversation."

why not use "ordeals"? I would be very appriciated if someone can create new sentences using both "ordeal" and "ordeals" in separately. In that case, I can compare clearly and to know how I should use plural form of a noun.

Thank you very much.

  • 2
    Singular means you're talking about a single ordeal: a single episode lasting five hours. You would use the plural if you were talking about more than one ordeal. Aug 12 '15 at 23:39
  • How I can count on "ordeal" in past to present? Aug 13 '15 at 10:08
  • What about if I talk about "ordeals" in the future? Aug 13 '15 at 10:10
  • It has nothing to do with past, present or future. It is just a matter of whether you are regarding and describing the experience as one continuing ordeal, or a number of separate ordeals. In some circumstances there is clearly a single continuing ordeal, or there are clearly separate ones; but if, for example, Nancy faced a number of different problems and struggles that overlapped in her experience, it is the speaker's choice whether to refer to her separate ordeals, or the one continuing ordeal which comprised them all.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 14 '15 at 9:04
  • Can I say this, "Nancy faced a number of different problem and struggle." Aug 14 '15 at 22:42

Here are two sentences containing both the plural and singular forms.

  1. "Fred faced a nasty ordeal at work, and needed to relax by walking through the park afterwards."

In this case, it sounds like Fred had a single difficult day at work, so he decided to walk in the park (with the added implication that he doesn't always do this). Perhaps the electricity went out on the busiest day of the year.

  1. "Fred faced nasty ordeals at work, and needed to relax by walking through the park afterwards."

Here, it sounds like Fred regularly had difficult days at work sometime in the past (implying that something changed in his work routine), and so he would also regularly take relaxing walks in the park (but, again, no longer does this). Perhaps he used to be a mail man and was chased by dogs regularly, so one day he decided to apply for a transfer to desk duty, or quit for another job.

Here's a different example:

  1. "Fred faced nasty ordeals at work today, and needed to relax by walking through the park afterwards."

In this case, "today" (could also be "one day," "another day," "last Friday," etc.) makes it so the sentence means that Fred faced multiple ordeals in a single day. For example, he could have been late because of a flat tire, spilled coffee on himself before a meeting, and had an employee get sick at a crucial moment.

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