"They qualify for government-supported medical treatment and disability payments."

In the sentence above, why is the word "treatment" used as a singular noun, and "payments" as a plural noun? I guess there could be several different forms of disability payments, so using -s after payment seems ok, but why not treatment"s"?

Can't there also be many different kinds of medical treatments that the government supports? Or is the word treatment mostly used as an uncountable noun?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

1 Answer 1


The word "treatment" is used in its uncountable aspect because the writer is concerned with treatment in general in this particular sentence; of course, it is quite possible that several sorts of treatment are available and if the discussion comes to the point of giving information about a given one, then the indefinite article "a/an" can still be used and you can also speak of that particular treatment as treatment in general. In the case of the plural of "payment" I think that there is no question at all of a variety of payments but simply a reference to the fact that payment is made on the basis of eligibility and therefore must be monthly or weekly, which entails that each small monthly or weekly allowance is a payment, thereby, speaking of all of them together, the need to use a plural.

  • ... And non-count usages of nouns are almost always singular in form, and thus confusable with singular usages. 'One treatment that has worked well, unlike several earlier ones, is ...'. And 'payment' as well as 'treatment' has both non-count and count usages. Sep 3, 2020 at 13:38
  • @EdwinAshworth Is that saying that "beers" is a non-count usage that is exceptionally plural (cans of beers, sorts of beer)?
    – LPH
    Sep 3, 2020 at 13:44
  • No. "We have a range of beers" uses a count usage. As is "Three beers, please." // A plural-form non-count usage is: "Thee house's surroundings were incredible." Plural in form, plural agreement ... but you can't have 2 / 17 / a dozen / several surroundings. Sep 3, 2020 at 14:16
  • @EdwinAshworth Those have the label "[pl]" (plural) in the OALD, a label that doesn't tell the whole story, that can be misleading. They are not quite plural. thanks for the precision; I found the formulation awkward, given the only meaning I could find for it at first. It's all clear now.
    – LPH
    Sep 3, 2020 at 14:32
  • 'Thee' of course is a good old-fashioned typo. Sep 3, 2020 at 15:38

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