Foreign Words

Some foreign words are used in the English language, and their pluralization usually follows the rules of their language of origin. For example, Latin singular words often end in -us (alumnus, syllabus), and follow the Latin rule of changing the -us to -i to create a plural (alumni, syllabi). Other Latin words end in -um (curriculum, datum, medium), and are made plural with -a (curricula, data, media). Greek words often end in -on (criterion, phenomenon), and are changed using -a (criteria, phenomena). Because these words follow the rules of other languages, it is best to check a dictionary when making them plural

Note: For many foreign words, our most common use of them is in the plural. For example, we use the word "data" much more than we use the word "datum," and the same with "media" and "medium." A common error is to treat the common plural form as a singular, in regard to subject-verb agreement and pronoun agreement. Be sure to use the plural forms of the verb and pronouns.


• Wrong: This data is incorrect.
• Right: These data are incorrect.

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