• Schools should concentrate more on the child and less on exams.
  • Schools should concentrate more on the children and less on exams.

I have been told that those two sentences above are correct. Could you tell me the difference? Why do we generalize something with singular nouns when we can do it by plural nouns? (Because I've read it somewhere that we usually generalize something in plural forms) This is where I'm confused. Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


Both forms are valid ways of generalizing an idea. Use the singular version when you want to focus on an individual. Your example is a classic case.

I'll modify it just a little. Imagine that you are a parent, and you want to enroll your child in a private school with a program for advanced children. The school website might say this:

The Balfour Academy emphasizes the child rather than exams.

As a parent, you are now thinking about a teacher giving individual attention to your child in particular. Presumably, you want that sort of attention for your child.

The same can be true of a scientific description. The following sort of thing is common:

The male tweet chafer attracts a mate by crossing its antennae in two-second intervals . . .

A plural version might be ambiguous:

Male tweet chafers attract their mates by crossing their antennae in two-second intervals . . .

Does one tweet chafer cross its own antennae, or do multiple tweet chafers cross their antennae together in some sort of line dance? We really can't tell.

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