- means1. When the meaning is ‘financial resources’, means is treated as plural: Their means are somewhat limited. When the meaning is ‘a way or method’ it can operate as a singular noun (when preceded by a determiner such as a, any, or every) or as a plural noun (when preceded by a plural-marking word such as all, many, several, etc.):
• Several means are available for indexing numbers not obtainable with standard plain indexing —L. E. Doyle et al., 1961
• They remained for her a means, and not an end, a bargaining power rather than a blessing —Margaret Drabble, 1967
• Derek and I drove down there and shut off the whole barn, preventing all means of getting in or out —J. Hadwick, 1991
• In those days gondolas were cheap and a perfectly normal means of transport —Mail on Sunday, 2001.When means is preceded by the, the following verb can be either singular or plural, depending on the sense intended and the grammatical context:
• Moreover, the means by which this end is achieved are remarkable —Michael Foot, 1986
• When I first travelled to England in 1960, the normal means was by boat —Daily Telegraph, 2003.2. The dual role of means in the ‘way, method’ sense is a survival or folk memory of an earlier time, when both the singular mean and the plural means were used. The singular use has dropped out, but the construction, attached to the plural, has survived.
Modern English usage. 2014.