Count nouns, non-count nouns, collective nouns.

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Hela

Senior Member
Tunisia - French
Dear teacher,

1) Are names of fish uncountable ?
e.g. trout, salmon, cod, carp, tuna(s)?

2) Can the word “reading” be used in the plural (= readings)?

3) Is there a difference between “fume” and “fumes”?

4) Does the word “garment” always take a plural verb?

Thank you for your help.
Hela
 
  • Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    1. The ones you've listed are uncountable, yes. But sharks, stingrays, and seahorses use the plural. And the word fishes is used in some contexts. The shellfish I can think of use the plural form: clams, crabs, lobsters, scallops.... There are two octopuses and three squid, but some people would call them squids. Perhaps someone else will know why....
    2. yes. The poets will give readings of their work this evening.
    3. The noun form "fumes" is usually used as a plural: "the fumes from the fire made her sick." The word fume is more likely to be a verb: "if you make her angry, she will fume about it for weeks."
    4. No. One garment was washed and ironed. Two garments were ...
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    Thank you Kelly,

    So there's no particular rule about names of fish since some of them are countable and others uncountalbe, right?

    Kind regards,
    Hela
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Kelly B said:
    1. The ones you've listed are uncountable, yes. But sharks, stingrays, and seahorses use the plural. And the word fishes is used in some contexts. The shellfish I can think of use the plural form: clams, crabs, lobsters, scallops.... There are two octopuses and three squid, but some people would call them squids. Perhaps someone else will know why....
    Kelly please, have a look at this:
    trouts/trout
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=85100&dict=CALD
    salmons/salmon
    http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/DictionaryResults.aspx?refid=1861727051
    cods/cod
    http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861598309/cod.html
    carps/carp
    http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861595075/carp.html
    tunas/tuna
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=85376&dict=CALD
    Why the dictionaries give these possibilities??? My intuition tells me that you usually use unchanged plural fish names when you tell about them generally and if you are talking about kinds of them you should use plural with 's' (e.g. Carps that live in this lake were gathered from various areas, we have crucian carp, mirror carp, grass carp, etc. Am I right or it is sth completely different???
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I agree with Kelly. "There were 3 carps in the pond" sounds odd to me. I don't know why a dictionary would give the possibilities - maybe there is some variety of English that has this plural, or maybe it is colloquially ok.

    I wouldn't use "carps" for "varieties of carp" either.

    When the fish is cooked - and in colloquial language - I could imagine a plural of say "cod" meaning portions of cod, eg "I'll have 3 cods and 2 mushy peas".
     

    Oros

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Why the word aircraft is strange? Even if you see 100 of them, they are not aircrafts.

    I saw 100 aircraft not I saw 100 aircrafts.

    I saw 100 girls and I saw 1 girl.
     

    Moogey

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Oros said:
    Why the word aircraft is strange? Even if you see 100 of them, they are not aircrafts.

    I saw 100 aircraft not I saw 100 aircrafts.

    I saw 100 girls and I saw 1 girl.

    Aircrafts is correct. I've never heard anybody use aircraft when it's supposed to be plural :)

    The addition of the 's' is often subtle so you might not have heard it correctly :)

    ~~~~~~~~

    Generally:

    We had 5 salmons for dinner. :tick:
    There were big salmons in the sea :tick:
    The salmon were swimming together :tick:

    So through my observation, you don't make salmon plural when preceded by 'the' but if salmon is preceded by an adjective that can only be used in a plural sense, then you must make the word plural also.
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    I was taught that aircraft was uncountable too.

    What do you think of the following?

    I had three little fish for dinner yesterday.
    There are many fish in this aquarium.
    There are many fishes in this aquarium. (biologist speaking ? = types of fish ?)
    I have three sheep on my farm.
    See you,
    Hela
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It is entirely possible that in some world far from here it is acceptable to stick an s on the end of salmon, aircraft, tuna, cod, carp, monkfish, starfish, codling, and mackerel - but never in my hearing, and not in British English.

    On investigation, it seems that in some particular scientific contexts the plural form with added s is acceptable. But it is very clear that this does not happen in normal usage.

    I would be grateful if Moogey would give reputable reference sources for the bizarre usages claimed to be normal. Otherwise this post must be regarded as extremely misleading.
     

    Moogey

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Well let me say right away, this is what I think. I don't know this for 100% sure. So i don't mislead anybody...

    I'll tell you what I'll do... sometime tomorrow perhaps (as I haven't the time tonight) I'll research this and report what's correct with a reputable source. How's that? :D

    I might also add that there are dialects, even in English. panjandrum, are you not from Ireland? I am from the USA, and our English can be different. In fact, different areas of the USA have different dialects. :)

    Will get back to you all...
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thanks for your response, Moogey.

    I had a look in the OED and the British National Corpus. Both sources suggest that the use of s plural forms for these words is exceptional, and restricted to particular scientific contexts. This is supported by Google analyses:)
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    Dear panjandrum,

    In an exercise on non-count nouns on the web they said that family in the following context should be countable but I disagree. What is your view about the question, please?

    "Most men C in my family C (??) don't wear jewelry NC ."

    All the best,
    Hela
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    Yes, but what about:

    1) The average family consists of four people.

    2) My family, who don’t see me often, have asked me home.

    See you,
    Hela
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Moogey, I am from the US, and I disagree with you as well.

    Hela, your example #2 does have different usage in the US and UK. In the US, family is treated as a singular noun like any other. My family doesn't see me often. But your example is written correctly for the UK, and I'll let someone else explain it.
     

    Proudy

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Hela said:
    Yes, but what about:

    1) The average family consists of four people.

    2) My family, who don’t see me often, have asked me home.

    See you,
    Hela
    In the first example, family is used as a singular collective noun. In the second example, it is still a singular collective noun, but is also understood to refer the members of the group described by the collective noun. So English will accept either usage here, though you may also find those who insist it can only be one way or the other. I don't know why this is allowed, whether there is an actual rule which permits it, or, as is often the case, the preponderance of usage creates the acceptance.

    I have seen word usage I was taught was unacceptable, become acceptable by consistent usage, of increasingly larger numbers of English-speaking people. One quick example - upcoming. In the 50's and early 60's, an event which had not yet occurred, was a coming event. A staff writer who tried to use upcoming would have been quickly corrected. Today, upcoming event is accepted.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Originally posted by moogey
    Aircrafts is correct. I've never heard anybody use aircraft when it's supposed to be plural
    I disagree. I have never heard "aircrafts" used as the plural. Furthermore, I checked no fewer than four different sources, and all are in agreement that the n. plural for aircraft, is, in fact, aircraft. The sources include:

    Dictionary.com
    Merriam-Webster online dictionary
    American Heritage online dictionary (bartelby)

    And, just to divert from electronic media, I also referred to my old stand-by: Random House Dictionary of the English Language (Unabridged, First Ed., 1966)

    The word "aircrafts"is not even cited in WR's own online translation dictionary, which can be found right here.

    Example sentences include:
    There were many different types of aircraft at the airshow.
    The aircraft were lined up in the hangar.

    I might also add that there are dialects, even in English. panjandrum, are you not from Ireland? I am from the USA, and our English can be different. In fact, different areas of the USA have different dialects.
    I'm sorry to sound impertinent, but it seems as if you are stating the obvious.

    I agree that there are several different dialects in English, and many notable differences between AE and BE, as have been discussed in multiple WR threads. However, I would not go so far as to classify the count/non-count debate as a matter of dialect, since on both sides of the pond usage is fairly consistent with the basic grammatical construct used on that respective side of the pond.

    One of the great things we foreros enjoy about the WR Forums is the opportunity to express our differences between AE and BE on a regular basis. Neither is wrong, they are just "different."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The question of singular or plural appears here in different forms from time to time.
    CLICK HERE for one of the threads.

    In the particular examples used here, family may be either singular or plural depending on the context. If the sense is of the family as a set of individual people, it will be plural (Example 2). If the sense is of the family as a single unit it will be singular.
    Proudy said:
    In the first example, family is used as a singular collective noun. In the second example, it is still a singular collective noun, but is also understood to refer the members of the group described by the collective noun. So English will accept either usage here, though you may also find those who insist it can only be one way or the other. I don't know why this is allowed, whether there is an actual rule which permits it, or, as is often the case, the preponderance of usage creates the acceptance.
    There is no actual rule:) But then there are no real rules for English Grammar, only principles and guidelines developed to help us learn how to use the language effectively.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    panjandrum said:
    In the particular examples used here, family may be either singular or plural depending on the context. If the sense is of the family as a set of individual people, it will be plural (Example 2). If the sense is of the family as a single unit it will be singular.
    I think the same goes for most collective nouns (crew, team, jury, etc.), referring to every member of a collective noun you should put a plural verb (Our team are wearing new sneakers) and if you want to consider the word as a single group/unit you should put singular verb (Our team is the best).

    I checked in two dictionaries and found out that you use plural fish names with 's' when referring to species, the unchanged plural is used when speaking collectively about them (sources: Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease and Oxford Paperback Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Wordpower Guide, Copyright © 2001 by Oxford University Press) so:
    Hela said:
    What do you think of the following?

    I had three little fish for dinner yesterday.
    There are many fish in this aquarium.
    There are many fishes in this aquarium. (biologist speaking ? = types of fish ?) this would be plausible IMHO

    Please compare:
    He cought five fish.
    The fresh water fishes of Poland.

    As far as aircraft is concerned I have never heard 'aircrafts' either and it sounds awkward even for me (as a non-native).
     

    Moogey

    Senior Member
    USA English
    GenJen54, you're probably right about the word.

    BUT, I am simply saying, in the middle-east (tri-state) area of the USA, where I live, I have never heard "aircraft" used in a plural sense. All my teachers and friends use the word "aircrafts." Even English majors in my area.

    The bottom line: while "aircraft" may be technically right, it's important to remember dialects. If ever in my area of the USA, "aircrafts" can be used :)
     

    Oros

    Senior Member
    Korean
    The word deer is also cannot written in plural form. I have learnt it that way.

    I saw a deer when I visited the wild sanctuary.

    I saw 50 deer when I visited the wild sanctuary.

    Would you write 50 deers?
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Oros said:
    The word deer is also cannot written in plural form. I have learnt it that way.

    I saw a deer when I visited the wild sanctuary.

    I saw 50 deer when I visited the wild sanctuary.

    Would you write 50 deers?

    No, I've never seen "deers".
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    The word deer is also [s]can[/s] not be written in the plural form. I have learnt it that way.
    You are right. Deer is another good example of a collective noun. Moose is another. The plural of moose is moose.

    Residents of Alaska are accustomed to seeing moose and deer in most areas of the state.
     

    Oros

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Genjen

    It should be ' cannot be written in the plural ' .

    I wrote hastily and made a stupid mistake.
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    Onelook.com checks 36 dictionaries at once. Aircraft is plural. Aircrafts does not exist. Nothing regional (county or country) about it. :)
     

    Moogey

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hmm... well it's interesting that we always use "aircrafts" in my area...

    I don't understand why the language is so different in my area... anybody have any ideas?

    wow.. sounds so weird... the aircraft were there... creepy
     

    Moogey

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Yes, that's exactly it. I didn't know that my English was regional until I came to this forum because every English-speaking person I've ever talked to in my entire life speaks the way I speak, which apparently is "incorrect"

    And I stress every individual!
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    To Genjen54,

    What's a moose, please?

    To Brioche,

    Aircraft's:tick: is possible - the aircraft's wing fell off.
    I thought that one could use the possessive genitive only with animate things (what can I say instead of "things"?) like leaving creatures or names of organisations, bodies, etc. which refer to people.

    Now, what do you think of the word "funds" is it uncountable?

    "It took great courage for Farboddy to admit to embezzling funds from the bank."

    In my view "funds" = money, whereas "fund" is some kind of savings; but of course I can be wrong.

    See you,
    Hela
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Moogey said:
    Yes, that's exactly it. I didn't know that my English was regional until I came to this forum because every English-speaking person I've ever talked to in my entire life speaks the way I speak, which apparently is "incorrect" different ;)

    And I stress every individual!
    One of the many things I have found out since arriving in these forums is that the diversity of English and the use of English is much greater than I had imagined. There are contributions here from all over the world, from native English speakers and from non-natives.

    As Brioche points out, it is important for the benefit of this wide range of forer@s that we try to be clear about what is accepted standard English (whatever that is:) ) and what is our local usage.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hela said:
    Now, what do you think of the word "funds" is it uncountable?

    "It took great courage for Farboddy to admit to embezzling funds from the bank."

    In my view "funds" = money, whereas "fund" is some kind of savings; but of course I can be wrong.
    Fund and funds are two different things - as you suggest. Tricky, isn't it:) But your view is generally correct. An accountant would explain fund more clearly.
    The word funds could mean money, or could be the plural of fund. In context, there should be no confusion.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Hela,

    Here is a moose.

    Here are two moose fighting over territory.

    The moose is a member of the deer family and are most closely-related to elk. Moose are prevalent in the uppermost Northern parts of the US and Canada, living in deep forests and wooded areas. Male moose are recognized by their very large heads and broad, flat antlers.

    Now, for some more non-count fund. ;)
    The word funds could mean money, or could be the plural of fund. In context, there should be no confusion.

    Funds essentially means collection of monies that have been invested into a "fund" or type of investment account.

    A fund (noun) is a type of account that earns money, either via interest rates, or investment returns. These are usually held by large, private investment corporations and people invest their money into the different types of funds offered.

    I funded (paid for) my college education by investing my funds (personal money) in a long-term mutual fund (type of investment account).
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    Thank you very much for your replies. So what's the meaning of "funds" in the following sentence? Is it the countable or uncountable noun?

    "It took great courage for Farboddy to admit to embezzling funds from the bank."

    If Brioche is not online, could somebody answer my question on the use of the possessive with animate and inanimate nouns?

    Gratefully yours, (is this English or is it my idiolect?)
    Hela
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In your sentence, funds (=money) is uncountable.
    (It seems strange to say that money is uncountable:) )

    Brioche is probably asleep.
    It may seem strange to use 's for an inanimate object, but I don't know if it is incorrect. The aircraft's wing - for example - seems OK to me:
    "The aircraft's wing was damaged so our flight was delayed."

    Gratefully yours - is English and seems entirely appropriate here. Would I use it at the end of a letter? I might well do, to close a letter of thanks or acknowledgement.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    panjandrum said:
    It may seem strange to use 's for an inanimate object, but I don't know if it is incorrect. The aircraft's wing - for example - seems OK to me:
    "The aircraft's wing was damaged so our flight was delayed."
    Please correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I know you don't use 's with inanimate objects (generally you use them with people, countries and animals), howevwer there're some exceptions to this rule, for example:
    • ships, boats: the yacht's mast;
    • planes, trains, cars and other vehiclas (however, in this case it's safer to use 'of' construction): a glider's wings or the wings of a glider; thus, "the aircraft's wing" seems to be a correct construction;
    • in time expressions: a week's holiday, two weeks' time two hours' delay (two-hour delay is also possible), etc.
    • in expressions with sake: for heaven's sake, for goodness' sake.
    • or in expressions like for example: 100 dollars' worth of a picture, $1's worth of ice-cream.
    I hope this will shed some light on the issue:)

    Thomas
     

    bartonig

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hela said:
    Yes, but what about:

    1) The average family consists of four people.

    2) My family, who don’t see me often, have asked me home.

    See you,
    Hela

    In speech both forms are used in the UK. However, if the speaker were asked about the form of no. 2 he or she would likely say it was incorrect but, I think, would often be unable to correct it (to their satisfaction). The problem is that a family can't see - only a person can see. In speech, a speaker could say My family - they don't see me often - they've invited me home in which the speaker's thoughts have moved from family as a unit to a group of people.
    The rules of written language don't accept such a sentence but you could get by using the passive. For example, I've been asked home by the family because it doesn't see me often or even I've been asked home by the family because they don't see me often.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    This thread is from the earlier days of the forum. Since then the rules have become stricter to make the discussions searchable and a resource to people with similar questions. Such wide-ranging threads are no longer allowed.

    This thread is closed.

    Cagey, moderator
     
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