Language tip of the week: criterion

Posted by on October 04, 2012

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are based on areas of English (e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc) which learners often find difficult. Here is some advice about the noun criterion:

The plural form of criterion is criteria:
Decisions on whether to close schools are based on three criterions: (a) financial saving; (b) condition of the buildings; (c) educational provision.
Decisions on whether to close schools are based on three criteria: (a) financial saving; (b) condition of the buildings; (c) educational provision.

People often confuse the singular and plural forms of this word, so if you need to use it in the singular be careful to use the correct form:

The only criteria for being accepted on the course is that you should have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject.
The only criterion for being accepted on the course is that you should have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject.

Criterion is a word of Greek origin, which is why it has this unusual plural. Another similar word is phenomenon, whose plural is phenomena.

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