23

We use "the news is good" instead of "the news are good."

What is the rationale behind this? Are there similar situations in English?

6
  • What do you mean by "like this"? And for what exactly are you asking a rationale? Oct 18, 2010 at 10:03
  • 2
    If by like this you mean words that are plural but treated as singular, then the answer is yes; there are other plural words that are treated (or generally treated) as singular: mathematics and physics, for example.
    – apaderno
    Oct 18, 2010 at 14:06
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno: Why do you say that "mathematics" and "physics" are plural? Oct 18, 2010 at 14:42
  • 1
    I'm told that on one particularly dull day between the wars the BBC news bulletin consisted of the following announcement..."Good evening. Here are the news. Tonight, there are no news. Instead, here is a string quartet." I haven't been able to confirm this with Google, though. Oct 18, 2010 at 17:33
  • 2
    The NOAD reports that mathematics is plural noun [usually treated as singular]; the same is reported for physics.
    – apaderno
    Oct 19, 2010 at 1:02

1 Answer 1

17

News is uncountable and is used with singular verbs. The -s is there because etymologically, it used to be a plural form. Etymonline says:

late 14c., plural of new (n.) "new thing," from new (adj.), q.v.; after Fr. nouvelles, used in Bible translations to render M.L. nova (neut. pl.) "news," lit. "new things." Sometimes still regarded as plural, 17c.-19c.

As to other nouns like this, I have looked through a number of Wiktionary and Wikipedia categories, and the closest I could come to similar examples is measles and billiards.

Yet another interesting (but not really similar) case is species. Wikipedia says:

Specie and species make a fascinating case. Both words come from a Latin word meaning "kind", but they do not form a singular-plural pair. In Latin, specie is the ablative singular form, while species is the nominative form, which happens to be the same in both singular and plural. In English, species behaves similarly—as a noun with identical singular and plural—while specie is treated as a mass noun, referring to money in the form of coins (the idea is of "[payment] in kind").

4
  • What do you mean by "other nouns like this"? Oct 18, 2010 at 14:43
  • 3
    @ShreevatsaR: I mean nouns where the singular form suspiciously looks as if it were plural, as in "bad news is good news" or "billiards is fun".
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 18, 2010 at 15:10
  • Also headquarters and shambles. Nov 24, 2015 at 12:16
  • Some dictionaries suggest that "nuptials" is, or can be, singular.
    – Scott
    Jul 15, 2017 at 1:07

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.