Singular or plural - abandonment

High on grammar

Senior Member
Farsi
Hello everyone:

According to the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, the word “abandonment” is uncountable or non-count, but I found many examples of the plural form of the word on google books:

https://www.google.com/search?q="abandonments+of"&btnG=Search+Books&tbm=bks&tbo=1&gws_rd=ssl

https://books.google.com/books?id=UpsgYEcY5DwC&pg=PA33&dq="abandonments+of"&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1qPtVPjtBMazoQTSxoGYAQ&ved=0CDYQ6wEwBA#v=onepage&q="abandonments of"&f=falsehttps://books.google.com/books?id=UpsgYEcY5DwC&pg=PA33&dq="abandonments+of"&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1qPtVPjtBMazoQTSxoGYAQ&ved=0CDYQ6wEwBA#v=onepage&q="abandonments of"&f=false
Most state rail plans summarize trends in abandonments of fright rail lines to document the loss of capacity and connectivity-……..

Source: State Rail Planning Best Practices.

Either a word is uncountable or it isn’t.
In the English language you run across many cases like this, where you find in print the opposite of what the dictionaries say. I wonder why.

Thanks

 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Because the English language belongs to its speakers, not to dictionary-makers.

    If the word "abandonment" proves, over a number of years, to have a plural when used by educated speakers, then the dictionaries will list it. If not, it will die the death.

    Having said that, I don't consider the writer of your second quotation to be very well-educated; at any rate he has an atrocious style.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Either a word is uncountable or it isn’t. In the English language you run across many cases like this, where you find in print the opposite of what the dictionaries say. I wonder why.
    Because it's not true that either a word is uncountable or it isn't. It's common for a word to have a range of uses, and a strong preference for being countable or uncountable in one or more of them, without any absolute division. A smaller dictionary can't list all possible obscure uses: that's the OED's job.
     

    High on grammar

    Senior Member
    Farsi
    Because the English language belongs to its speakers, not to dictionary-makers.

    If the word "abandonment" proves, over a number of years, to have a plural when used by educated speakers, then the dictionaries will list it. If not, it will die the death.

    Having said that, I don't consider the writer of your second quotation to be very well-educated; at any rate he has an atrocious style.
    So, what you are saying is that using the plural form of "abandonment" would be wrong in a phrase like this: "in abandonments of children". Right?
    https://www.google.com/search?q="in+abandonments+of+children"&btnG=Search+Books&tbm=bks&tbo=1&gws_rd=ssl

    source:Families in Former Times
     

    High on grammar

    Senior Member
    Farsi
    Because it's not true that either a word is uncountable or it isn't. It's common for a word to have a range of uses, and a strong preference for being countable or uncountable in one or more of them, without any absolute division. A smaller dictionary can't list all possible obscure uses: that's the OED's job.
    Yes, you are absolutely right that whether a word is countable or uncountable depends on the meaning it has in a specific context, and that was very wrong of me to say such a thing. Now, could you please tell in what sense it is correct to use the plural form of the word “abandonment”?

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited:

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Yes, you are absolutely right that whether a word is countable or uncountable depends on the meaning it has in a specific context, and that was very wrong of me to say such a thing. Now, could you please tell in what sense it is correct to use the plural form of the word “abandonment”?

    Thanks.
    What we can tell you is that you should use abandonment as an uncountable noun because that's the way it's used in regular English. :)

    You see, your original source is a rather technical document. Apparently the transportation/railroad industry uses abandonment as a countable noun because it has a need to talk about "abandoned stretch of railway A," abandoned stretch of railway B," "abandoned stretch of railway C," etc. But this is jargon, used in the transportation industry but not by the rest of us. It is, as ETB explained, "obscure." Native speakers don't know all of the jargon for every industry, and you don't need to know it either.
     
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