fish and fishes

annettehola

Banned
Danish
Hi,
I'd like to know what exactly the difference between "fish" and "fishes" is. I don't understand it well, for I've always thought that "fish" is an uncountable noun. Until a few days ago when I hit upon a book in a bookshop on said theme. It's title was "Tropical fishes." I looked to see if the author was from an English-speaking country, and yes, he was. Could it be then, I wonder, that when the talk is about "fish" as species that the countable form is used? And that the term "fish" is only used with fish in general?
Or is it a sort of exception? It's "sheep," not "sheeps"....I'm a bit confused with this after that encounter in the bookshop.
Annette
 
  • annettehola

    Banned
    Danish
    Thanks to you; too, GenJen.
    I'm going to have fish soup tonight.
    With starfish and squid (or squids) and lobster.
    Isn't that weird? I mean logically it should somehow be "fishes soup," right? With all them species in it? But, eh, then that's the law of the genetive of names....
    Smile and speak!
    Annette
     

    el alabamiano

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    As someone who lives minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, I would call that "Seafood Soup," but each cook to their own pot. Of course, if it doesn't turn out well, you can always call it "Fishy Soup". :rolleyes:
     

    annettehola

    Banned
    Danish
    No, I'll make a stew of them all instead. A stew is a stew and can never go wrong. This would solve the problem.
    Annette
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    The reason you say fish soup is that here fish is an adjective, and adjectives in English have no plural.

    Fish soup contains many fishes. (Though honestly, I'd use the singular here)
    Footballs are kicked by many feet.
    A bookshelf holds many books
    etc...
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    With starfish and squid (or squids) and lobster.
    Isn't that weird? I mean logically it should somehow be "fishes soup," right? With all them species in it?
    None of those are species of fish though - you've got an echinoderm, mollusk, and crustacean soup there. :)
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    None of those are species of fish though - you've got an echinoderm, mollusk, and crustacean soup there. :)
    If you leave off "an" do we end up with soups or soup? Does species apply to the collective "soup" too?

    ...you've got echinoderm, mollusk, and crustacean soups...
     

    Junwei Guo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I know when discussing food, "fish" is uncountable, but how about entire fish?
    I wanted to check if I can say "There's a fish on the plate" here? (The fish is entire.)
    Thanks :)
     
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    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    "Fish" can certainly be countable. What is confusing you is that the plural and the singular use the same form. This has nothing to do with whether or not the item is countable:
    There is one whole fish on my plate, and there are three more whole fish in the kitchen.
    I have 27 fish in my aquarium.
     

    Jim in Phila

    Senior Member
    American English
    Fish can be countable; for example, at an Italian dinner you may be served a meal of seven fishes. Here I suppose the -es form is used to emphasize the various types of fish that were served. But you could also call it a seven-fish meal.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Fish can be countable; for example, at an Italian dinner you may be served a meal of seven fishes. Here I suppose the -es form is used to emphasize the various types of fish that were served. But you could also call it a seven-fish meal.
    Sure. We have a “three dog night” (a very cold night) that follows that format.
     

    Junwei Guo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks all :)
    I know "fish" can be countable, but I was told, by many natives, when discussing food, fish is uncountable.
    But for a whole fish, we can also view "fish(food)" as a countable noun, right?:)
     

    Jim in Phila

    Senior Member
    American English
    Yes, "There's a fish on the plate" is correct; it means one fish (or one serving or one piece of fish) is on the plate. If there are several pieces of fish on the plate, you could say, "There is fish (plural) on the plate." (Maybe language purists would also say, "There are fish on the plate" to indicate that fish here is in the plural form, but I think either form would be acceptable).
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    But for a whole fish, we can also view "fish(food)" as a countable noun, right?:)
    Yes. It is simply that the plural of fish is 'fish' (compare one sheep, two sheep.) The plural "fishes" is becoming increasingly rare and if you never use it, nobody will be surprised. :)
     

    Junwei Guo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Yes, "There's a fish on the plate" is correct; it means one fish (or one serving or one piece of fish) is on the plate. If there are several pieces of fish on the plate, you could say, "There is fish (plural) on the plate." (Maybe language purists would also say, "There are fish on the plate" to indicate that fish here is in the plural form, but I think either form would be acceptable).
    Thanks:)
    Yes. It is simply that the plural of fish is 'fish' (compare one sheep, two sheep.) The plural "fishes" is becoming increasingly rare and if you never use it, nobody will be surprised. :)
    Please check out:
    italki: Learn a language online
    Peachy says:
    "Fish" is the plural form of "fish". It doesn't change. This is quite different to it being an uncountable noun.

    "Fish" as an uncountable noun means "fish meat".

    "Fishes" suggests "different types of fish". However, as Kevin and LGF92 point out, you really wouldn't use this.
    According to the comment, can I say:
    "There are various kinds of fish in the aquarium. Which *fishes* do you like?"
    *I use "fishES" for "different types of fish" here.
    I wanted to check whether the "fishES" works well in the sentence.
    If so, can I also use “fish(plural)" for "different types of fish"?
    Thanks:)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Please check out:
    italki: Learn a language online
    Peachy says:
    I'm not sure why I need to see that - it agrees with what I said:
    "Fishes" suggests "different types of fish". However, as Kevin and LGF92 point out, you really wouldn't use this.
    According to the comment, can I say:
    "There are various kinds of fish in the aquarium. Which *fishes* do you like?"
    It does not sound idiomatic to me. As I said, the old plural "fishes" is becoming rarer - avoid it.
    Compare
    "There are various kinds of sheep in the field. Which sheep do you like?"
    "There are various kinds of fish in the aquarium. Which fish do you like?"

    Please also note that in both of the sentences above the words sheep and fish are countable.

    "There are 20 sheep in the field. Which three sheep do you like?":thumbsup:
    "There are 4,000 fish in the aquarium. Which 10 fish do you like?":thumbsup:

    "There is a sheep in the field.
    "There is a fish in the aquarium.

    As a food, "fish" mean "the meat of fish" (no matter how it is served) - this is uncountable. The difference here is that uncountable nouns and plural countable nouns do not take "a" and may or may not take a determiner, but singular countable nouns must have a determiner.

    A: "What are we having for dinner?"
    B: "Fish" (uncountable)
    A: "What sort?"
    B: "Plaice. [shows the fish to A]"
    A: "They are not very big..."
    B: "You can have two fish if you want." (countable).
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    What point are you trying to make? Could you please explain?
    It might be better to ask Junwei Guo what he means. What exactly has he got on his plate?
    I wanted to check if I can say "There's a fish on the plate" here? (The fish is entire It is a whole, cooked fish.)
    If he means this (see picture), then is he is, for example, saying this to someone, then it is a grammatical sentence but without context, it sounds a little strange. Why would you say that?
     
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    Junwei Guo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks all!
    It might be better to ask Junwei Guo what he means. What exactly has he got on his plate?
    If he means this (see picture), then is he is, for example, saying this to someone, then it is a grammatical sentence but without context, it sounds a little strange. Why would you say that?
    Yep, that's what I meant.
    One more question:
    I wanted to check whether "fish" is still more natural than "fishES" even in scientific contexts where "fish" is used to talk about different species of fish instead of the quantity of fish.
    For example:
    1. The fishes of the Atlantic include salmon and cod.
    2. The fish of the Atlantic include salmon and cod.
    I think both are acceptable, but #2 are much more natural, right?
    Thanks!:)
     
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    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    What point are you trying to make? Could you please explain?
    It sounds odd, out of place, and a bit confusing. It is OK for grammar but it sounds like “Oh my God” Was left off.

    Oh my God! There’s a fish on my plate!
    Oh my God! There’s a fly in my soup!
    Oh my God! There’s a mouse in my stew.

    It sound like there is a fish on your plate and it really does not belong there.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I wanted to check whether "fish" is still more natural than "fishES" even in scientific contexts
    Yes.
    1. The fishes of the Atlantic include salmon and cod.
    2. The fish of the Atlantic include salmon and cod.
    I think both are acceptable, but #2 are much more natural, right?
    Neither are idiomatic:
    - Atlantic fish include(s) salmon and cod.

    " Salmon, cod, and other fish have decline in size since 1950." :thumbsup:
    "Fish found in the seas around Fukushima have high levels of radiation.":thumbsup:

    Aside: if it is of interest, I looked at an old grammar book: it explained that in the English of about 1,000 years ago, the nouns had genders and the plural was usually, but not always, a suffix, e.g. nama (masculine, meaning name) plural naman (names), but some neuter nouns had no suffix in the plural, e.g. deor (meaning 'deer') plural deor.

    These neuter words, particularly (but not exclusively) when related to things that were (hunted and) eaten, took on a countable and uncountable meaning that were, and remain, interchangeable.

    The book also mentioned "craft" in its meaning of "a boat of some type" We can say:
    "There are many craft (uncountable) in the habour but a craft (countable) with sails always looks best. Look, over there - those two craft (countable, plural) have sails."
     
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    Junwei Guo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Yes.

    Neither are idiomatic:
    - Atlantic fish include(s) salmon and cod.

    " Salmon, cod, and other fish have decline in size since 1950." :thumbsup:
    "Fish found in the seas around Fukushima have high levels of radiation.":thumbsup:
    Thanks :)
    The book also mentioned "craft" in its meaning of "a boat of some type" We can say:
    "There are many craft (uncountable) in the habour but a craft (countable) with sails always looks best. Look, over there - those two craft (countable, plural) have sails."
    Why is the "craft" uncountable? I think it's a plural noun, which means many boats.:)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Ah - my mistake. Yes, it's countable. It is plural in that case "There are many craft (plural, countable) in the harbour but a craft (singular, countable) with sails always looks best.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Better example:
    "We haven't seen much deer (uncountable) today... Oh! wait! Look, there are two deer (plural countable) over there"
    "No - there is only one deer (singular, countable), the other one is a calf."
     
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