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 using the noun behaviour:
Behaviour is usually an uncountable noun, so it is rarely used in the plural:
✗ Parents should be able to prevent their children’s crimes or bad
✓ Parents should be able to prevent their children’s crimes or bad behaviour.
✗ The media often encourage violence and aggressive
✓ The media often encourage violence and aggressive behaviour.
The plural form ‘behaviours’ is a specialized term used in fields such as psychology, social science, and education. This use is much less common than the uncountable use:
In this chapter, we discuss strategies for dealing with the problem behaviours of young children.
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This blog is wonderful; it is a great tool to have and I’ll always use it for more improvements of writing skills, grammar etc. I’d like to extend my warm thanks to the macmillan publishers for providing this service.
Would “behaviours” be acceptable in Economics contexts such as this one?:
“The authors defend this based on an increased demand for greater risk transparency with the aim of reducing the probability of possible fraudulent or opportunistic **behaviours**.”
Or would “behaviour” be correct?
Hello Adam, thanks for your query. This is absolutely one of the cases in which the use of ‘behaviours’ would be acceptable and even preferred. It is an example of Macmillan Dictionary sense 1b: a particular way of behaving: ‘These behaviours should be discouraged.’ It is also the topic of one of our very helpful ‘Get it Right’ boxes, which tells you all you need to know:
While it is true to say that the plural use is much less common than the uncountable use (about five times less frequent according to our corpus) it is by no means infrequent: there are around 400000 citations for the plural in the corpus.