Is there or are there any clothes?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Chilly Willy, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. Chilly Willy New Member

    Chile / English
    If clothes is uncountable, then why do we say "Are there any clothes in the suitcase?". Can somone please explain this to me and if possible give me some other examples.
  2. Rob625

    Rob625 Senior Member

    Murlo (SI)
    English - England
    Hm. As a native speaker, this is the sort of think I never have to think about until someone asks.

    As a language learner, and knowing learners of English as a foreign language, I do have the concept of uncountable nouns.

    I think there are two classes of uncountable nouns. Most of them take the singular:
    Is there any furniture in the house?"​

    But some take the plural:

    Are there any clothes?
    People are funny.
    These trousers are too long.​
    In most cases, these ones end in -s, and so they "sort of" are plural; yet you can't talk about a clothe, a people (well, not in this sense), or a trouser.

    I hope this helps.
  3. dave

    dave Senior Member

    UK - English
    Hi Chilly,

    Like Rob, this is not something I have really considered before, but I think an answer to your question might be that clothes is always a plural noun, and therefore must always take a plural verb.

    I think this is slightly different from a standard non-countable noun, as these always (?) take singular verbs. If, in your example, you were to replace clothes with clothing (a standard non-countable noun), the following would be correct:

    Is there any clothing in the suitcase

    Hopefully a grammarian will be along soon to put us all out of our misery!

    PS: I do take issue with Rob's assertion that people is a non-countable noun. It is definitely a countable noun:
    1 person
    2 people
    3 people
  4. Rob625

    Rob625 Senior Member

    Murlo (SI)
    English - England
    You are quite right, of course; I should not have tried to use 'people' as an example.
  5. jimmyy Senior Member

    Just to confirm with you

    Is it correct that one cannot say : "many clothes"
    than what should one say? "much clothes"?

    Thank you
  6. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    I would use the plural form.

    One would say "a lot of clothes" or "many items of clothing".
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi jimmyy

    You can definitely say "many clothes", as in I haven't got many clothes/ Have you got many clothes? In an affirmative sentence, we'd be more likely to say "a lot of clothes", as NZF suggests.

    You can't say :cross:"much clothes" - "clothes" is plural.
  8. jimmyy Senior Member

    For me "much clothes" sounds strange, but I'm not sure about "many clothes" because if we follow the rules of countable and uncountable, they say that "many" can't be used with uncountable words, and since "clothes" has only a plural form, I would say that "many clothes" cannot be used if we follow the grammar books.
    But to my ear it sounds ok, only that I'm aware it might be a false friend with my language.
  9. Callbarsis New Member

    South Korea
    "His family... They are nice people!" Though "family" is singular, we replace it with "they", right?
    Then how about this one.
    "His clothes... It is/They are always old and out of fashion!" Is it "It" or "They"?
  10. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    We use "they". Here, too, we regard clothes as a plural.

    Welcome to the forum, Callbarsis! :)
  11. morro33 New Member

    Well, according to what they teach me at the university "clothes" is a noun which is always plural and falls into the very same category as scissors or jeans. Thus the correct sentence is "Are there any clothes in the suitcase?".
  12. aeterna_nox

    aeterna_nox New Member

    Moscow, Russia
    Should we say "little clothes" or "few clothes"?
  13. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Welcome, aeterna nox. :)

    We say "few clothes".
  14. aeterna_nox

    aeterna_nox New Member

    Moscow, Russia
    Thank you ^^
  15. As my compatriot already suggested, the word clothes always takes plural, and so the verb should be used in plural, and thus "are" is correct here, not "is".

    You might find the article about plurale tantum interesting:

    A plurale tantum (Latin for in the plural only; plural form: pluralia tantum) is a noun that appears only in the plural form and does not have a singular variant for referring to a single object. Many languages have pluralia tantum, such as the English words clothes, scissors, pants, and trousers, ...​
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2010
  16. mikolo New Member

    If I ask "Is this your clothes" i don't really have a problem with it, even though it is pluralia tantum.
    Also, "Are there your clothes"- perfectly fine.

    I think in this case it doesn't really matter.... or am I wrong?
  17. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    Hello mikolo

    You are indeed wrong. If you wish to speak and write correctly, you will use the plural forms for 'clothes' and other nouns like it such as jeans, scissors, trousers and so on.

    'Are these your clothes?'

    'Are they your clothes or your sister's?'

    I'd say that not even the most poorly educated native speaker would use singular forms with these words.

  18. mikolo New Member

    I see
  19. sunyaer Senior Member

    In a context where I am asking about a piece of clothing on a chair which I want to take, the above sentence doesn't seem to work with "these" in the context of one piece of clothing, does it?
  20. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    No, but then we typically wouldn't use "clothes" in that situation. "Is this your shirt / blouse / coat?" "Are these your shoes / trousers (pants in AE) / pajamas?"
  21. sunyaer Senior Member

    But the asker has to identify what item of the clothes is. Sometimes something looks like a coat, but it's actually something else. What is the best way to avoid this type of confusion?
  22. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    Honestly? I usually say (and hear) "Is this yours?" while holding or pointing to the piece of clothing.
  23. sunyaer Senior Member

    Is it that you don't want to bother saying what item of clothes it is?
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2015
  24. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    You just asked what I would say if I couldn't identify the piece of clothing. That is what I would say if I couldn't identify it or thought there might be confusion. If I knew it was a coat I would say, "Is this your coat?"
  25. prof d'anglais

    prof d'anglais Senior Member

    Can I take this discussion one stage further? Everyone agrees that "clothes" are uncountable, however, we use "many" for countable nouns and "much" for uncountable nouns. But, we can only say "how many clothes do you have?" or "I have many clothes.".
    Can someone explain why, please?
  26. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    As has already been said, "clothes" is a plural form, which is why we say "many clothes". Because it's plural, we can't say "much clothes"; "much" can only be used with singular uncountables. Because "clothes" is uncountable, the question "how many clothes do you have?" is not English, since it is impossible to reply with a number: it's a typical mistake made by people learning the language.
  27. prof d'anglais

    prof d'anglais Senior Member

    Thank you Andygc!
    Does anyone know of other uncountable, plural nouns, that fall into this category?
  28. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    "Goods", for a start. But not "trousers", "scissors" or "underpants", which although unusable with "much" can be asked about with "how many?" because the words have an implicit "pairs of" in their meaning.

    "How many scissors do you have?" is possible, although I'd probably say "How many pairs of scissors do you have?" I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear a member of staff in a clothing shop say "How many brown trousers are there in stock?"
  29. prof d'anglais

    prof d'anglais Senior Member

    "Goods", perfect, another uncountable noun that uses "many, thank you!
    I'm sure there must be others, though...

Share This Page