Writing Multiple-Choice Questions
Noun/Number Agreement

All birds are very good at building their nest.

This may look OK, but it’s incorrect. As written, it means that all birds currently alive, as well as all birds that have ever lived, are very good at building the one nest they’ve all shared. That’s a big nest!
Nouns have to agree in number—start with plural, end with plural; start with singular, end with singular. This sentence should be:

All birds are very good at building their nests.

Here’s another common mistake that the SAT will likely throw at you:

Donna and Doug are planning to sell all their possessions and move to Maui in order to become a beach bum.

How can two people, Donna and Doug, become one beach bum? Well, they can’t:

Donna and Doug are planning to sell all their possessions and move to Maui in order to become beach bums.

Another commonly tested feature of nouns is countability. Look at the following sentences:

I have many failings.

To mature is to transcend much failure.

Both sentences are correct. Failings is something one could count; failings are discrete entities like pebbles or atoms or four-leaf clovers. Failure, however, cannot be counted; failure is an abstract state of being, like sorrow, liberty, and happiness. “I’ll take two happinesses please, just in case I break one”—if only! Concrete entities can be noncountable as well: air and water, to name two. (Putting on airs and parting the waters are figuratively countable uses of these noncountable nouns.)
Countability is most often tested via the less/fewer and number/amount pairings. Here’s a handy chart:
Noun Count-able? Use Example
hatred no less You would be wise to show less hatred toward others.
pony yes fewer There are fewer ponies romping here than I had hoped.
love no less The less love you provide, the less you’ll receive.
kiss yes fewer I would suffer if you bestowed fewer kisses on me.
mango yes number I ate a large number of mangoes right off the tree when I was in Maui.
money no amount The amount of money I spent in Maui is less that you might think.
shark yes number There are a number of sharks off Maui’s coast.
fear no amount The amount of fear these sharks cause is way out of proportion to the actual danger they represent.
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