English as a Second Language/Plural or singular after


Please let me know whether to put the noun after "of" in the plural or singular. e.g.
a herd of cows or cow
a box of sweets or sweet.
thanks for your explanation.
Best regards,


A noun after "of" can be singular or plural depending on the function of the word "of".  At the bottom of my response I have included a link to Merriam-Webster.com so you may research it further.  

Since a 'herd' is, by definition, more than one cow - you would say a herd of cows.  Similar clauses are:
A flock of geese...
A bundle of newspapers...
A (noun meaning a lot of something) of (something in the plural because there are a lot of them).

Your second sentence is a little different because although "box" is singular, we use "of" to indicate the component material, parts, or elements or the contents <throne of gold> <cup of water> (see definition below).  When we say "a box of...." the noun will be plural.  Please note that many nouns are the same in the singular and plural.

A box of sweets...
A box of underwear...
A box of geese...
A box of (plural noun).

When there is just one thing in the box, we don't use the clause "a box of...".  Instead the object in the box usually becomes the subject:

The shirt in the box.
The shirts in the box.
The kitten sleeping in the box.
The kittens sleeping in the box.
The contents of the box.

Here is the link explaining the many functions of the word "of":



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Amanda
Thanks a lot for your explanation.
As regards the correct verb/adjective/pronoun to be used:
A flock of geese: is or are? which or who? it or they?
A bundle of newspapers: is or are? which or who? it or they?
A box of sweets: is or are? which or who? it or they?
Thanks again and kind regards,

A flock (bundle, box, herd, etc.) is singular.  There is one flock, one bundle, one box, one herd.  Singular nouns: is and it.

As for "which" or "who" it depends on the meaning and structure of the sentence.  These words can be used in many ways.


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I can answer any question about the English language or US culture for non-native English speakers. I will not answer homework questions.


Native English speaker, experience teaching English to ELLs.

Bachelor's Degree, Seattle University

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