I read in the free dictionary http://www.thefreedictionary.com/part the following rules:

You use part of or a part of in front of the singular form of a countable noun, or in front of an uncountable noun. ... Don't use 'part of' or 'a part of' in front of a plural noun phrase. Don't say, for example, 'Part of the students have no books'. Say 'Some of the students have no books'. Don't say 'A large part of the houses have flat roofs'. Say 'Many of the houses have flat roofs'.

But in a subsequent section of the same page it gives the example:

A large part of his earnings went on repaying the bank loan.

I am confused. Isn't 'earnings' a plural noun? (I did check in the same online dictionary that 'earnings' is treated as a plural noun.) So why does it put 'A large part of' in front of 'his earnings'?

And in the section 'References in classic literature' of the same page, I also see the example:

Although he still hungered for the presence of the boy, who was the medium through which he expressed his love of man, the hunger became again a part of his loneliness and his waiting.

Shouldn't 'his loneliness and his waiting' as whole be treated as a plural noun? So why is 'a part of' put in front of `his loneliness and his waiting'?

So can I say "This work includes part of the results in my master thesis" and "...leading to my master thesis ... (the title of my thesis), with parts of its results being published in ...(a journal's name)" ? If not, how should I say? Change 'part' into 'some' or what?

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    Earnings (like wages) is an uncountable noun - as are loneliness and waiting. Results can be either countable or, at a stretch, they could be uncountable. It really depends on how you are talking about "the results of your thesis". If you are using results in a very general sense, they could be considered uncountable. But if the results can be listed - then they would be countable. For safety's sake I would treat them as countable and say "some of the results of my thesis".
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 19:02
  • So even I have said ''This work includes part of the results in my master thesis", it is not a flagrant error? I have put such a sentence in the Acknowledgement of a paper which has been published last summer. But I didn't know the rule regarding the usage of part until just now. If it's not a definite error, then I can be relieved. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 19:22
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    @CaptainBohemian If you are using the preposition "in", it would suggest to me that they are countable results. Hence it would be better to say "some of the results in my master's thesis". However were you to use the preposition of , I would feel more comfortable with "part of the results of my master's thesis". But to be safe I would stick with some of the results.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 19:31
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    earnings with this meaning exists only in the plural (OED: "In plural The amount of money which a person acquires or becomes entitled to by his or her labour; the money made through working, trade or business activity, etc.") There is no singular earning with this meaning. So, it's plural, but it's only plural. That probably explains why it can be used as such. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 23:52

2 Answers 2


Some nouns have a plural form that is a collective noun - one where we treat a group of things together as a single item. Examples are earnings, results and data (which is actually the plural of datum).

With plural collective nouns, you can think of them as either singular (the group) or plural (the individual items). This doesn't generally affect the verb case, but you can use either some of or part of.

The definition that you quote overstates the strength of the rule:

Don't use 'part of' or 'a part of' in front of a plural noun phrase.

The Oxford Guide to English Grammar is rather more cautiously worded (note the highlighted **normally*:

We normally use part of only before a singular noun

Both of these sentences are therefore OK:

This work includes part of the results from my Master's thesis
This work includes some of the results from my Master's thesis

Note that I have changed the preposition in to from because you have copied data from your thesis to the work that you are describing. I have also added an apostrophe-s after Master.

  • I think the reason that TheFreeDictionary overstates is that it doesn't consider there are plural uncountable nouns, like groceries, arms, remains, goods, customs, clothes, thanks, regards, police, pants, scissors, spectacles, etc. I also didn't know there are so-called plural uncountable nouns until Ben Sewell informed me. I have long known these enumerated words are conventionally used in plural forms, but I didn't know they are so-called uncountable. So are "parentheses" and "braces" also uncountable? Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 10:28
  • Why do you add " 's " after Master? Is this addition necessary? And why do you capitalize "m" in "master" therein? Is this also necessary? I always use "my master thesis" though I have seen others using "my Master's thesis". I consider which way is used is just personal preference. Is the way I use inappropriate? Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 10:39
  • @CaptainBohemian, Nouns that are only plural behave like uncountable nouns: this includes pairs, collective nouns, etc. see dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/parenthesis and dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/braces for plural/countable information.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 8:31
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    @CaptainBohemian See grammarly.com/blog/masters-degree, Once you have mastered something, you are a master and your degree is a master's degree. The apostrophe is mandatory in this context, as it indicates that the degree belongs to a master. The capital letter is required and the apostrophe-s must not be present if you write "Master of Science/Arts/Philosophy/<whatever>" but the capital is optional and the apostrophe-s is mandatory in the context that you have used it: I always write it using a capital..
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 8:35
  • That link you gave for introducing collective nouns only illustrates the cases where the members of the collective nouns are animate so that one can determine whether the paired verbs and pronouns should be used in singular or plural forms depending on whether their members are in uniform or individual activities. So when it come to the collective nouns whose members are inanimate, like results, earnings, and data, which are by chance all plural, how does one determine whether the paired verbs and pronouns should be used in singular or plural forms? Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 15:19

'Results' is countable, so you should not 'some' rather than 'part' here, if you are saying that you have many results, and are referring to only some of then.

However, if your thesis only had a single (therefore uncountable) result and you are referring to a portion of it, then you should say 'part' of the 'result'.

  • Then why does that online dictionary give the example ``A large part of his earnings went on repaying the bank loan." since 'earnings' is plural? Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 18:54
  • I'm guessing a little, but in that context, 'earnings' has no article, as the possessive 'his' removes the article. This causes it to be treated as a singular entity. If it was 'the earnings' instead of 'his earnings' then I don't think it would work. I would rephrase in that case, or perhaps use the word 'portion' instead of 'part' as it is possible to use 'portion' with singular and plural,
    – Ben Sewell
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 19:02
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    I am sorry, I should have referred to countable and uncountable rather than singular and plural. Here you can see that you can have plural uncountable nouns: englishgrammar.org/plural-uncountable-nouns-2
    – Ben Sewell
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 19:26
  • And 'earnings' is plural uncountable, although I cannot find a reference.
    – Ben Sewell
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 19:26
  • According to your link 'englishgrammar', it's like a plural uncountable noun is used with plural verbs, as 'are' in ''The police are searching for a white man in his twenties." I originally also considered 'earnings' as an uncountable noun, but I saw ''His earnings are not sufficient to support his family." in Translations of thefreedictionary.com/earnings, thus thinking 'earnings' shall be a countable noun. Now I am clarified that 'earnings' is a plural uncountable, which is used with plural verbs. So is 'results' a plural uncountable noun and thus can be preceded with 'part of'? Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 3:27

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