Mean or Means – Difference Explained (With Examples)

When speaking or writing in English, correctly using singular and plural words is critical for conveying your message properly. The word “means” sometimes presents a problem with singular and plural. Here we discuss the complexities around this word and how to use it correctly.

What Is The Difference Between “Mean” And “Means”?

The words “mean” and “means” have many different associated definitions. You must always look at the overall context of the sentence to determine its interpretation. For example, the word “means” is always used as a noun. However, the word “mean” can be a noun, verb, or adjective.

Mean or Means

There is even a difference in the definitions of “mean” and “means” in their noun form. For example, when “mean” is used as a noun, it refers to a mathematical calculation. When “means” is used as a noun, it refers to a method of how something is brought about.

The other words in the sentence really do serve as the only way of knowing which interpretation of the word the speaker or writer intends.

When Should I Use “Mean”?

Use “mean” as a verb to convey or refer to something. Use it as an adjective to describe an unkind person or someone who is very good at something. When used as a noun, it refers to a mathematical average or the middle of something.

As you can see, sentence context is essential for proper understanding of this word.

The Cambridge Dictionary provides the following definitions for the word “mean.”

  • (Verb) “to represent or express something intended, or refer to someone or something.”
  • (Adjective) “Unkind or not caring” or “very good.”
  • (Noun) “The result you get by adding two or more amounts together and dividing the total number by the amounts

Here are some examples of using “mean” in a sentence for all three parts of speech.

How to Use “Mean” as a Verb

  • I’m not sure what you mean by that statement; please explain further.
  • The new rules mean that we have less time for lunch.
  • I didn’t mean to scare you like that.
  • I hope this doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends anymore.
  • You must know by now how much you mean to me.

How to Use “Mean” as an Adjective

As “Unkind or not caring”:

  • You always act so mean to your sister. It’s not very nice.
  • I know that she said those things to be mean to me.
  • We used to have a very mean dog who liked to bite.

As “very good”:

  • She was a mean tennis player-definitely one of the best!
  • My mom always made such a mean apple pie.
  • My brother is such a mean guitar player.

How to Use “Mean” as a Noun

  • The mean of 6, 3, 7, and 5 is 5.25.
  • In math class, we learned how to find the mean, median, and mode.
  • The mean weight of everyone in my family is 140.5 lbs.

When Should I Use “Means”?

As a noun, use “means” to refer to a method or way of doing something. It can refer to either a singular method or multiple methods. The word “means” is always a plural noun when used in these ways. It can also reference money that you use to purchase things.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word “means” as “a method or way of doing something” and “money or income that allows you to buy things or services.”

Here are some examples of how you can use “means” in a sentence.

“Means” as a Method or Way of Doing Something

  • What means did you use to get to that result?
  • By all means, let me know if you have any thoughts about this topic.
  • I’m by no means certain that we will be able to travel this summer.

“Means” as Money or Income

  • They are definitely wealthy if they have the means to purchase that house.
  • I’m waiting to buy a car until I have the means to do so.
  • My parents always said that I should live within my means.

What Is The Plural Of “Mean”?

When the word “mean” is used as a verb or a noun, the plural is “means.” As a plural noun, “means” can be both singular or plural in sentence construction, even though the word itself remains plural in form for both singular or plural.

Here are some examples that show “means” used as a plural verb.

  • I don’t know exactly what he means when he says that.
  • I wish that she would just say what she means all the time.
  • I think Richard means that he wishes he could help you.

Here are some examples that show “means” used as a plural noun.

  • What means of communication do you prefer?
  • All three means of getting there seem pretty easy.
  • We have no means of finding out who stole the money.

Is “Means” Singular Or Plural?

The word “means” is plural. However, when used as a noun, it can be interpreted as both singular or plural. It depends on your sentence context. When used as a verb (i.e., he said he means to go there someday), “means” is always plural, and “mean” is singular.

Is It “Which Mean” Or “Which Means”?

Both “which mean” and “which means” are correct phases. The one you choose depends on whether the noun phrase preceding it is singular or plural. For a singular noun phrase, use “which means.” For a plural noun phrase, use “which mean.”

The word “which” is a third-person pronoun. According to grammar rules, it requires either a plural noun (that proceeds it) or a plural verb (the word “means”).

Here are some examples of “which mean” used with a plural noun phrase before it:

  •  Different expressions, which mean different things to different people, are hard to explain.
  • The various poems we read, which mean a variety of things, were all enjoyable.
  • The rules on the chalkboard, which mean the way that students must act, were very clear.

Here are some examples of “which means” used with a singular noun phrase before it:

  •  A dark sky, which means that it will rain soon, always signals that they will cancel the game.
  • It snowed this morning, which means they canceled school for the day.
  • There was an accident on the highway, which means I’ll be late for dinner.

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