It’s common in times of turmoil to reach out to friends and loved ones for advice. Just as naturally, you’ll likely want to extend advice in return whenever those special people in your life request help or guidance. However, when offering more than a single piece of advice, is it correct to say “advices?”
“Advice” cannot be used plurally in most cases because “advice” is a noncount noun, and the word “advices” is not grammatically correct. However, when speaking in specific legal, financial, or business settings, it is acceptable to use the word “advices” as the plural form of the word “advice.”
This article will explore the word “advice,” including where the term comes from and how to use it. We’ll also consider alternatives as well as how to use it in the plural form properly. So read on to learn more about this fascinating word and how it works within our language!
The Etymology of “Advice”
If you’ve ever experienced the annoyance of a friend who comes to you for advice and then quickly ignores your words of wisdom, you understand how frustrating it can be to see your advice go unheeded.
When tensions rise, it can be valuable to remember that, at its root, the word “advice” has never implied that we are to accept a statement as entirely factual. Instead, at least initially, it pointed to someone’s opinion!
English derives the word “advice” from the French term “avis,” which means “viewpoint,” “opinion,” or “judgment.”
Though each person naturally views their advice as the wisest, most accurate path, advice is often nothing more than a single viewpoint. Moreover, because an individual’s perspective shapes that person’s outlook, each person is likely to see value in different forms of advice.
Initially, the term “avis” was a part of the phrase, “ço m’est à vis,” translating to “it seems to me” (source). This phrase perfectly reflects the true nature of advice between friends, a piece of advice that comes from personal experience rather than a true “right or wrong.”
Of course, in more professional settings, “advice” does seem to reflect a more profound sense of right and wrong. In particular, legal advice bears more experience and more weight than a simple piece of advice from a friend.
Though both legal advice and personal advice draw from the same meaning, they require different handling, both grammatically and in real life.
Is Advice Countable or Uncountable?
Still, the question remains, is advice countable or uncountable? If countable, what is the plural form of “advice”?
In most cases, “advice” is an uncountable noun. This means that it is subject to all the same rules as other uncountable nouns, and we cannot use “advice” plurally. However, when discussing legal advice or specific business advice, we may consider “advice” a countable noun.
When deciding whether or not to use a plural form of “advice,” it can be helpful to go back to the original rule that determines whether a word is countable or uncountable.
What Is an Uncountable Noun?
Count nouns commonly refer to words that we think of as more “traditional” nouns: people, places, and things. As the name might suggest, these are nouns that someone can easily count.
The rules surrounding plurality among countable nouns are straightforward to learn. First, it is plural if there is more than one of any countable person, place, or thing. Then, to signify the plurality of that term, you simply add either an “s” or “es” to the end.
- My cat (singular) hid in the bush (singular), chasing her toy (singular).
- My four cats (plural) ran around the bushes (plural), chasing their toys (plural).
Because “cat,” “bush,” and “toy” are all tangible, countable nouns, they are plural. Signifying their plurality is as simple as tagging the terms with either “s” or “es.”
How Mass Nouns Are Different
Noncount nouns, which we also call “mass nouns” or “uncountable” nouns, reflect nouns that are far harder to number. These noncount nouns typically refer to ideas, feelings, or abstract words in the English language but can also refer to nouns that, while tangible, we simply cannot count (source).
A few common examples include:
How would someone attempt to connect a number to sugar without counting the individual grains? How could you quantify copper before it exists in a measurable shape? What would it mean to experience multiple “peace”?
Simply spoken, you can’t.
Because these words are uncountable, they exist without being either plural or singular. Look at how this functions in actions:
- I appreciate the loyalty you have given me in our friendship.
- I gain so much happiness from our time together.
- Even without much money, we are able to have a great time.
In the sentences above, you can see that because these words represent concepts rather than tangible objects, you can’t really count them in the traditional sense.
However, though we generally view “advice” as one such uncountable noun, you occasionally may hear someone use it plurally in very specific settings.
When Can You Say “Advices?”
Though our language follows grammatical rules, those rules sometimes shift and change depending on a given setting. When it comes to “advice,” plural usage changes between informal language and formal, legal settings. In such cases, is “advice” correct?
Though it is not appropriate to use the word “advices” when giving an opinion to friends, the term can be correct when discussing specific kinds of advice.
In particular, you may hear this word when discussing official payment advice, legal advice, or any other advice someone intends another to receive as fact rather than opinion (source).
There is a significant difference between discussing friends’ opinions and “advice” with major financial or political implications.
For example, in his original writing, Henry David Thoreau uses this word in the plural sense, speaking of “the latest advices from Mexico.” In this instance, “advice” doesn’t signify an opinion; it means significant political statements, making it appropriate to use the word “advices.”
Read on to see a few more examples:
The President issued advices about evacuating the refugees.
My lawyer gave several advices about what steps I should take during my divorce proceedings.
He proposed some advices about appropriate environmental protections before we began the experiment.
In the above instances, “advices” has less to do with opinion and more with the appropriate legal actions a person should take.
What Can I Say Instead of “Advices?”
In most cases, we would consider “advice” an uncountable noun that we should not technically use in the plural form. Thus, it is not correct to say “advices” when describing common advice given in informal conversation.
It’s frequently easiest to lump all individual segments of advice under the umbrella term “advice.” Even if your friend mentioned 10 different suggestions during a conversation, you could still easily leave the conversation saying, “Thanks for the advice.”
If that doesn’t feel sufficient, you can get around this rule by getting more specific.
For example, try saying:
- Thanks for the pieces of advice you gave.
- I appreciate all the advice and tips you offered me.
- You always provide the best bits of advice.
Using the plural words pieces, tips, and bits clearly indicates that you were receptive to the multiple opinions your friend gave.
Is “an Advice” Correct?
The next step of understanding how to use this somewhat unusual word is understanding how we should use it in combination with articles. For example, though one can discuss “the advice,” it’s both incorrect and unnecessary to talk about “an” advice (source).
In the English language, “a” and “an” signify that a word is in its singular form while not being specific about which noun it is.
For example, if you were making a school supply list, you might write out:
- A binder
- An extra eraser
By looking at this list, you can see that the writer doesn’t have any particular binder or eraser in mind; she just wants any binder or eraser. Because “binder” begins with a consonant, you would use “a” rather than “an,” which precedes words that begin with vowels.
While it seems that, following this rule, you’d say “an advice,” the article is not necessary here. Because “advice” is generally singular, there’s no need to double down by using the word “an.”
Though it is unnecessary to use the article “an” when discussing advice, we can still use the definite article “the.” “The” serves to point out a specific example of a noun. If you’re discussing a particular piece of advice separate from the rest, it’s appropriate to specify that by using the word “the.”
Check out a few examples here:
- Correct: I appreciated the advice you gave me yesterday.
- Incorrect: It’s kind of you to give the advice.
For example, by saying, “I appreciated the advice you gave me yesterday,” you express a level of gratitude for a particular piece of advice over all others.
Because the second example seems to refer to all advice as a whole, it only creates confusion to phrase it in a way that specifies “the advice.”
“Advice” vs. “Advise”
The English language contains a long list of easily confused words, and near the top of that list are “advice” and “advise.” People mix up words for a variety of reasons: similar appearance, sound, or meaning. In the case of “advice” and “advise,” people frequently confuse these words for all three reasons!
Though these two related words appear and sound highly similar, they function very differently in practical use.
As we previously discussed, “advice” is a noun, meaning an opinion someone shares to guide future actions. “Advise” is a verb, meaning the act of sharing that opinion.
Look at how these two words function in context:
- I appreciate your advice, but I believe I’m going to try anyway.
- Thank you for advising me, but I think I’m going to try anyway.
In the first sentence, advice represents an idea someone shared, making it a noun. In the second example, that same person was completing the action of advising a friend; as always, an action is a verb.
Other Easy-to-Confuse Words
If you find these two words confusing, don’t worry. You aren’t alone! According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “advise” and “advice” are part of a long collection of words that commonly trip up even experts of the English language (source). Check out the chart below to find out a few more:
|Commonly Confused Words
|Effect vs. Affect
|What’s the effect of the lesson on your memory?How did the lesson affect your memory?
|Altogether vs. All together
|We abolished that rule altogether.Putting your luggage all together before flying was a major hassle.
|Been vs. Gone
|She’s been shopping, but she just returned.She’s gone shopping, and she should be back soon.
|Beside vs. Besides
|Sit beside me at the concert.Besides rock music, what other genres do you like?
|All vs. Every
|All members are expected to wear their uniforms.Every member should tell me what size he or she wears.
|Everyday vs. Every day
|She’s just your average, everyday student.Every day, she arrives on time and gets to work.
|Lend vs. Borrow
|Can you lend me your pencil for the day?I’m afraid I may need to borrow your pencil.
|Full vs. Fill
|The classroom is already full of students.It will fill with students tomorrow as well.
|Its vs. It’s
|The cat grabbed its toy from the bin.It’s a shame that you are allergic to cats.
|Quiet vs. Quite
|She’s a quiet girl who prefers not to speak much.She’s quite the piano player!
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
For further reading on commonly confused words, check out this article: “Preternatural vs. Supernatural: What’s the Difference?”
Even for native English speakers, some words take a while to understand fully, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the effort. Advice is definitely one such word.
Though it may be common to give and receive advice, not everyone naturally understands the rules around this word and its operation in practice.
In most situations, advice is an uncountable noun and should not be plural. However, if you’re discussing legal advice, it’s not uncommon to hear people discuss plural “advices.” The more you practice sharing your advice with others, the more you can learn about our language and how it develops!