Fish or fishes?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by jallajalla, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. jallajalla Member

    Is it possible to use the plural of FISH in certain circumstances? As for example in this sentence: "I was surrounded by a lot of fishes"?
  2. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Fishes used as a plural ordinarily means "different types or species of fish".

    If a tank contains three trout, two salmon, and fifteen goldfish, there are twenty fish (individual creatures) in the tank, but three fishes (that is, species: trout, salmon, and goldfish) in the tank.
  3. Alisterio

    Alisterio Senior Member

    Mexico City
    UK English
    According to this source, the usual plural for fish is fish ("I was surrounded by several fish"); "several fishes" means "several species of fish". There's also previous thread on WR, which for some reason is in the English-Spanish grammar forum, here.
  4. Embonpoint Senior Member

    In case you have trouble remembering, you can always think of the wonderful Dr. Seuss children's book "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue fish."
  5. eyePod Senior Member

    English - California
    Well, I thought about this and I don't think I would ever say "fishes" although GreenWhBl is more erudite than me I suppose. Maybe "there are several kinds of fish in the tank"
  6. dukaine Senior Member

    Richmond, VA
    English - American
    I agree with you. "Fishes" sounds ignorant to me. Just a quick note to you, eyepod, "GreenWhBl is more erudite than I".
  7. Askalon Senior Member

    English (US)
    I would only use "fishes" in very specific phrases like "sleeping with the fishes" (which I imagine stems from a nonstandard dialectal form). That's really the only case I can think of in which I would use that form. To refer to multiple fish or even multiple species of fish I would say "fish".

    Eyepod's version would be correct to at least some prescriptivists, and is obviously just fine in real English. That really doesn't call for a "correction".
  8. djmc Senior Member

    English - United Kingdom
    The OED merely says that the use of the collective singular is common. I think would say fish normally, but if I were referring to a a small number, particularly if I had counted that number I would say fishes. "there are six fishes in the aquarium, four goldfish and two shubunkins."

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