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Is a Series Singular or Plural?

One of the best parts of investing time in a television or book series is the joy of discussing it with others — that is, until you realize that grammar Nazis are waiting to poke holes in your ideas by picking on your grammar. So when you’re talking about your favorite show, is it “this series” or “these series”?

When the word “series” refers to several completely unrelated occurrences, as in “a series of robberies,” we should treat the word as a plural noun. However, if it refers to a television or book series, it represents a single, unified noun. Therefore, the word “series” can represent either a singular or plural noun, depending on its usage.

In this article, I’ll be addressing confusion around the word “series,” as well as other common nouns. If you need a little help understanding the intricacies of this word, read on!

When Is “Series” Singular or Plural?

If you’re confused about whether or not “series” represents a single or plural noun, you aren’t alone. This word falls into an unusual category, making it one of the trickier words in the English language to master.

“Series” can represent either a single or plural noun, depending on how someone uses it. To understand whether or not this word is singular or plural, you need to take a moment to examine the context.

Singular “Series”

This word can be tricky, but try not to overthink it. When discussing a single unified piece of literature or media, “series” represents a single noun.  

For example, imagine you are discussing the Harry Potter movie series with one of your friends. Despite the fact that this film collection contains eight different movies, we use it to refer to a single category.  

  • Incorrect: The Harry Potter series are one of my favorite collections of all time.
  • Correct: The Harry Potter series is one of my favorite collections of all time.

In this example, you can see that because the films form a single collection, you should treat them as a singular series.

It really is that simple!  Let’s try again, this time with a book series.

  • Incorrect: Goosebumps terrified me as a kid, but now I love them.
  • Correct: Goosebumps terrified me as a kid, but now I love it

Whether or not a “series” involves multiple films, movies, images, or books, we are to treat them as a single noun if those pieces make up a single unified collection.

Plural “Series”

If we consider a series a single, unified collection, it’s a single noun. That’s simple enough!  But what about when the word refers to separate events?

When the series you are discussing are entirely unrelated, you should treat them as multiple unconnected events. Take a look at a few common examples:

Incorrect: Robbers in my neighborhood have been causing all sorts of problems. The series of break-ins has made me afraid to walk to my car at night.

Correct: Robbers in my neighborhood have been causing all sorts of problems. The series of break-ins have made me afraid to walk to my car at night.

Because the assumption in this example is that multiple different robbers have been breaking into numerous houses, we should treat this as various, plural incidents. 

“Series” as a Zero Plural

When you take a moment to look at it objectively, this rule isn’t as difficult as it first appears.  At the same time, you may still have two important questions: “How do you pluralize a series?” and  “Is serieses correct?”

With most nouns, even a beginner in the English language understands that you represent plurality by adding an “s” or “es” to the end of the singular noun. However, in the case of “series,” this general rule varies slightly.

“Series” is what grammarians refer to as a zero plural. This term just means that even when discussing multiple “series,” you don’t need to add “s” or “es” to this noun (source).  To keep it simple, you always discuss series, never serieses. 

Examples:

The Queen’s Gambit and Peaky Blinders are both fantastic series, but I enjoy the soundtrack of the first series far more than the second.

When I was a kid, I could read five different book series at a time. As an adult, I have to focus all my attention on just one series, or I’ll get the main characters confused.

Other zero plural nouns include:

  • Deer
  • Cod
  • Moose
  • Fish

Regardless of whether or not you are discussing a single series or multiple, you should use the same word. If you find this rule confusing, think of other common zero plurals we use, like when discussing groups of animals. For example, you would never think to use the word “sheepses” or “specieses.”

Count Nouns

Image by Magda Ehlers via Pexels

It’s important to note that, while “series” is a zero plural, it is also a count noun. As such, it still requires the use of an article such as “a” or “the” (source).

In the English language, nouns generally fall into one of two categories: count nouns or noncount nouns. As the name might suggest, a “count noun” represents objects that we can separate and count. Whether you are discussing a single series or a series of separate events, you still use the same word to indicate each.

Noncount nouns represent abstract ideas or substances that we can’t easily count. These words also don’t require the use of “a” or “an” in indicating which noun you are talking about. 

Common examples of noncount nouns include:

  • Natural substances: air, water, wood, fire
  • Some foods: milk, bread, sugar, meat
  • Diseases: diabetes, cancer
  • A language: Japanese, Chinese, English
  • An area of study: economics, math, chemistry, physics
  • An activity: smoking, reading, dancing, singing

Collective Nouns

In addition to being a zero plural, “series” is also what we commonly refer to as a collective noun. This group of nouns requires a bit more thought to use appropriately because, like series, they can represent either singular or plural numbers of events, places, or things (source).  

A collective noun is a word that you might use to indicate a collection of objects. Much in the same way a series can represent a collection of books or films, any collective noun means a unified group of people, places, or things.

At first glance, these words may seem plural, but through closer examination, you can see that these words indicate a single collection. Look at this example below:

  • Incorrect: After the game, the team are heading to Chuck E. Cheese.
  • Correct: After the game, the team is heading to Chuck E. Cheese.

In this example, though the team includes multiple players, they are going to the restaurant as a single unit or collection. Regardless of whether or not these players will be traveling together, the single collection of players is heading to the same exact location. In this instance, we should treat “team” as a collective noun.

Using Collective Nouns With Plural Nouns

Let’s look at another example, this time with both a collective and plural noun.

Example: The class is learning about fractions today. Students sometimes struggle with the concept.

In this example, look at the two nouns “class” and “student.”  

The class in this example is working as a single unit to study the same concept. Thus, all students are unified because they are in a single group, studying the same form of math. As a result, the “class” is a collective noun.

In this class, some students struggle with the mathematical concept. Not all students are unified here; only some individuals struggle. Because of their separation into individual units, the plural word “students” makes sense here rather than the collective noun “class.”

For further reading on this topic, read this article: “Class’s or Class’: Singular, Plural, and Possessive.”

Multiple Collective Nouns

Grammarians often still consider collective nouns as count nouns. This means that in most cases when you are discussing more than one collective noun, you signify their plurality through the use of an “s” or “es.”

Examples:

  • The two rival teams will be facing off against each other on Tuesday.
  • The classes both behaved poorly, and the sub left a horrible note for each.
  • The two wolf packs fought over which would utilize this hunting ground.
  • The three families come together every Christmas to celebrate the holiday.

In each of these examples, the plural collective nouns indicate multiple individual groups within the same sentence.

Collective Nouns and Individual Actions

As with every rule, there is an exception. For example, in some sporadic cases, a word that may appear to be a collective noun may represent multiple individual nouns. As such, it would require the use of a plural verb.

Let’s look at one example of how a collective noun can actually represent multiple individual people:

  • The choir received a perfect score for its performance.
  • The choir adjusted their robes after the show.

By looking at the context, you may be able to spot the difference.

In the first sentence, “choir” represents a single unit. The group acted as one and received a single score for its performance.

In the second sentence, however, “choir” represents multiple individuals. The choir didn’t adjust its robe; they each adjusted their own individual robe.  With the way we use “choir” in the second sentence, it would require a plural verb.

Collective nouns can seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry! With a little practice, you can easily use these group words appropriately and match them to their appropriate verb.

Common Collective Nouns and Examples

The best, most reliable way to understand a language is by studying the way it functions in context. Though this is the case, it still may be easiest to learn the ins and outs of collective nouns by memorizing a list of common words and studying how each works within a sentence.

Table

Below, you’ll find examples of different collective nouns as well as how we might use them in context.

Collective NounExample
StaffThe staff disagrees about how to handle the situation with its boss.
JuryThe jury deliberates for hours before concluding a case.
OrchestraThe orchestra is practicing for the show tomorrow night.
PackThe wolf pack frequently hunts at night.
SetHave you seen my set of golf balls?
ClubThe poetry club meets on Thursdays in the old art room.
CastAfter the show, the cast meets to talk about the performance.
HerdThe herd of sheep ran through the mountains, searching for places to graze.
CompanyThe company closed its last business, shutting its doors for good.
DepartmentThe dress department of that clothing store is my favorite place to shop.
FamilyMy family is incredibly close with the neighbors next door.
PairThis pair of shoes is my absolute favorite!
CollectionThe art collection is awe-inspiring because of how many painters it includes.
BandThe band of musicians practices together every Wednesday night.
PacketThe packet of letters sits on the corner, waiting for the mailman to pick it up.
CrowdThe crowd of people in the mall can make me feel anxious.
BouquetThe bouquet of flowers sailed through the air into the group of bridesmaids gathered at the end of the hall.

This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

In each example, you can see how the noun always binds them together into a singular group even if the word represents multiple nouns. By practicing with collective nouns, you can sharpen not only your subject-verb agreement skills but also your understanding of the English language.

Final Thoughts

The subject-verb agreement rules can be tricky under the best of circumstances. When you take into consideration words like “series,” this already difficult skill might not seem worth mastering.

Never fear, though! While there are a variety of terms and rules surrounding the word “series,” that shouldn’t stand in the way of your time spent on discussion boards or conversing about your favorite show. 

Just remember that if the series you are discussing is a single, unified group of episodes, use the word singularly. If the same word is discussing completely different events or films, you would consider it plural.