calculator or calculators

imiuru

Member
Chinese
Teacher: "All of you are required to bring your calculator/calculators."

Here is my reasoning:
The 'your' in the sentence refers to all students, which is plural, so 'your' should be followed by 'calculators', a plural noun.

What confuses me is whether 'bring your calculators' implies a student should bring more than one calculator. If it does, 'All of you are required to bring your calculator' seems to be the correct one.

Can anyone please help me on this? Thank you
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    You can say calculator or calculators, but if you use the plural, it is always possible that more than one calculator is meant.
    To avoid this ambiguity, the singular is used.

    Compare this sentence: I want everyone to open their mouths/mouth. It depends on whether you are thinking of the mouths that you want opening or (perhaps more logically) the mouth of each person.
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    Here, I would use "calculators", especially because of "All OF YOU", but I swear this singular vs plural is a very big problem in English, and there's no solution to this problem in the language, neither is there a good rule governing it. It gets on my nerves, but I can forgive myself because there are often differences even in the opinions of native speakers. So I am waiting eagerly to see what they say here.


    Cross-posted. And the answer as expected!
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    What one is taught is sometimes not correct! Also if you say his, this would mean that everyone is male.

    Example: "The teacher asked the children to raise their hands/hand if they knew the answer."

    Some speakers will prefer hand, while others will prefer hands, even though no child raises both hands. Yet others will sometimes say hand and at other times hands.
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    e2efour, this confusion of hand/hands, body/bodies, etc gives me nightmares, as my profession demands 100% grammatical/semantical accuracy. I wonder why so great a language as English didn't devise a way of saying that unambiguously and uniformly.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    There is no solution to this. One child => one hand; several children => hands (collectively) or hand (individually).
    There may be times when the difference is important, but generally we understood what is meant.
     

    imiuru

    Member
    Chinese
    Thanks e2efour and Englishmypassion for your replies. To sum up, there is no correct answer to the original question. It is simply an area of English where no clear grammar rule governs.
     
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