Grammar

Parentheses Singular: Definition and Uses

Parentheses singular needs a careful study if you need to write with precision. Let the English Forward team show...

Victoria Mac Callum Written by Victoria Mac Callum · 3 min read >
single quotation marks

The singular form of the plural word parentheses is parenthesis. An opening singular parentheses looks like this ( and a closing parenthesis looks like this ). In English, an opening parenthesis must always have a closing parenthesis. The actual English used inside the parentheses symbols ( ) is called a parenthetical. The parenthetical is the main idea used in the parentheses. For example:

  • We had a great time on the cruise (and saved a ton of money!).
  • The squash dinner looked disgusting (I usually can’t stand foods that are yellow).

What is parenthesis?

Put simply, parenthesis is the singular of parentheses. Therefore, the parenthesis plural is a parenthesis. The opening parenthesis is almost never preceded by a comma, but there is usually a comma or full stop after the closing parenthesis. For example:

  • Incorrect: I didn’t get the one test result I was waiting for, (the email went to my spam folder) so I might have to call the school office.
  • Correct: I didn’t get the one test result I was waiting for (the email went to my spam folder), so I might have to call the school office.

What are some parenthesis examples?

Parentheses are used a lot in English writing. They can be used to change the style of an English sentence or to emphasize the author’s message or feeling about a subject. For instance:

  • Joan and Mia (Mia being the cautious one), decided it was best to not get on the overcrowded train car.

In the above sentence, the writer wants to emphasis that Mia is more cautious than her friend Joan, and proper use of parentheses, as in this use, is intended to make the reader aware of one of Mia’s personality characteristics, but in a subtle way, almost as a comment you would whisper about Mia. The sentence could be written without parentheses, but then the intended impression the writer is trying to share with the reader may be altered. For instance, does the usage of parentheses change how a reader may interpret these two sentences?

  • My aunt and I never got along when I was younger.
  • My aunt and I never got along (when I was younger).

Both sentences use the exact same words, but the use of parentheses in the second sentence is intended to change the meaning of the writer’s relationship with her aunt. The second sentence gives the impression the writer used to fight with her aunt, but now doesn’t. The parentheses that separate “when I was younger,” from the subject “my aunt and I never got along,” tell the reader the bad relationship is a thing of the past. Using parentheses well in English writing is a skill one usually has to form over time.

Parentheses give a writer a lot of English usage options to better share the meaning of a text. An English sentence can have a parenthetical clause or the entire sentence can be within the parentheses.

  • Sentence with parenthetical clause: My favorite football team would have won the championship game, but the best player was injured (she was injured during last year’s championship game too).
  • Sentence with complete sentence inside parentheses: My favorite football team would have won the championship game, but the best player was injured. (She was injured during last year’s championship game too.)

Notice that in the first example, the closing parenthesis comes right before the full stop. However, if the entire sentence, like in the second example, is within the parentheses, the closing parenthesis comes right after the full stop.

In addition to being used in full sentences to add additional context, parentheses are also used in other types of communications including dates, times, and numbers.

  • Jo Smith (1920-2020) was a beloved grandma and community volunteer.
  • The ABC Company (est. 2004) is the best company to work for.
  • The game begins at 7:00 pm (EST).
  • My phone number is (123) 555-5555.

What does an S in a parenthesis mean?

An S is used in a parenthesis when the word could be plural or singular. For example, an online English form may include the following:

  • Name(s) of applicant(s):
  • Degree(s):

These headings give the writer a choice to give a singular or plural answer. Basically, the S in parentheses leaves open the option of the word in the sentence being plural if needed.

Parenthesis inside parenthesis

A parenthetical can be inside another parenthetical. This happens when another internal thought or action needs to take place within existing parentheses. For example:

(Mia knew she had failed (even though she studied all night) the exam.)

There are other English punctuation marks that can be used in a sentence instead of parentheses. While these other English punctuation marks may not be grammatically correct to use instead of parentheses, they are commonly used by English writers in sentences. These symbols are:

Brackets [ ] are used to make something clear, such as who is speaking.

  • She [Ms. Jones] will join the sales team on Monday.

Braces { } are common in math or scientific notion for listing numbers.

  • The even numbers {2, 4, 6, 8} add up to 20.

Ellipses … are three dots that are usually written so the reader can see the speaker of the text is pausing or hesitating. They can also be used to show the passage of time.

  • “I’m not sure…when I got home…I think it was midnight?” the man told the detective.
  • … we finally reached the cabin after hours of hiking.

The use of English punctuation marks is constantly changing due to the evolving nature of English, but parentheses are an important and diverse tool in the English grammar toolbox.

Written by Victoria Mac Callum
Victoria honed up her English language skills in the Media Industry working at a campus radio station in 2014. Since then, she has upgraded to more demanding roles of English teacher on Preply and course creator. She's also a radio presenter, news anchor, voice-over artist, writer and editor. Profile
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