Criteria vs. Criterion: How To Use Both Words

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Quick summary

Criteria is a plural noun that takes a plural verb, as in The four criteria were extremely strict. The singular form is criterion, as in There is only one criterion.

In this article, we will explain the difference between criterion and criteria, clarify the correct usage of the word criteria, and give examples of how we typically use both words in sentences.

When to use criteria or criterion 

The word criterion is a noun that means “a standard of judgment or criticism.” A criterion is a rule or benchmark used to evaluate something. Criterion is a singular noun. The plural form of criterion is criteria.

For example:

  • Grades are just one criterion that colleges use to determine which students they accept—other criteria include extracurricular activities and standardized test scores. 

The word criteria is sometimes used with a singular verb as if it were a singular noun, but this usage is widely considered to be grammatically incorrect.

Why isn’t the plural of criterion formed by just adding an -s? It’s because criterion comes from Greek and uses a plural form also derived from Greek. Some other Greek words that similarly have unconventional English plurals include stoma (stomata) and ganglion (ganglia). Some words borrowed from Latin also often cause confusion with their plurals, such as datum (data), bacterium (bacteria), and alumnus (alumni).

Examples of criteria and criterion used in a sentence

Here are some example sentences showing how criteria and criterion are typically used.

  • They consider leadership ability to be the most important criterion when selecting a new executive.
  • She met all of the studio’s criteria and was chosen as the lead actor.
  • There are several criteria the judges base their scores on, and they must be an expert in each criterion.

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