Collective nouns - <effluent, effluents>

danielxu85

Senior Member
Mandarin Chinese
I know that "effluent" means liquid waste matter. I think it should be an uncountable noun just as wasterwater. However, in the following context, the writer uses its plural form "effluents". I am a little bit bewildered and bewitched by the fickleness of English. Could you tell me the reason?

One of the main problems with the revitalization of the Tanshui River is that Taipei County's sewer systems used to be very inadequate and industrial effluents and domestic sewage were discharged into the river without any treatment.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Like many collective nouns, effluent may be used in the plural to mean types of effluent.

    It's like wine, for example. Wine is uncountable except when you are talking about red wines - meaning varieties of red wine.

    Your example sentence is referring to a range of different types of industrial effluent.
     

    Roddyboy55

    Senior Member
    England, English UK
    It is simple really!

    The context refers to effluent from more than one source, one outlet pipe provides one effluent (dirty laundry water?) the next pipe along provides another effluent (waste battery acid?) so a large river will have many different effluents flowing into it.

    Hope this helps

    Rod
     

    danielxu85

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    Thanks, Panj and Roddyboy! One point I am not sure is that could I also say "wastewaters", as they are also from different sources and "wastewater" is also a collective noun?
     

    Roddyboy55

    Senior Member
    England, English UK
    I don't think so, although you could have water from different sources, the term "water" refers to a base product without any contaminants. If the water is contaminated then it really isn't water anymore but actually waste.

    You could have "waters" from different rivers or lakes but this would imply that the water was an entirely natural product.
    N.B. Natural in this context would probably include urine!

    (To be technically accurate, all water has chemicals and contaminants in it so the dividing line might be whether the water looks clean and is drinkable)

    best wishes
    Rod
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    But if it is actually 'water' then it is all the same. The effluents are all different things, depending on which industrial process produced them.
     
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