the fishes' or the fish's

Hinata Sama

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi, friends.
I was reading this webpage.
http://grammarist.com/usage/fish-fishes/
So it says fishes is used to refer to multiple species of fish.

But then "the Fishes' " appears in some example sentences and really confuse me
But after reading this webpage, I still don't understand why "fish's" can't
be used in those example sentences in this webpage.

Take this example sentence there, "the fishes’ scales were yellow"
Why is 'fishes' ? If they mean some types of fish. ]
Then I think it should be 'these fishes' scales were yellow'.
"The fishes' "? I really have no idea why it is not "The fish's"
Please help, thanks.
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    This fish is large.
    These fish are large.

    Fish
    can do duty as singular or plural, because the number is obvious - both from the demonstrative adjective and from the verb.

    The fish's scales were yellow.
    The fishes' scales were yellow.

    When there is no other way of distinguishing the intended number, we have to use fishes' for the plural.
     

    Jason_2_toi

    Senior Member
    English-Scotland
    I'm giving my opinion only, and haven't consulted any textbooks or websites.

    I disagree strongly that fishes is used to designate multiple species of fish, say, herring, cod, tuna, etc.

    It's possible that people wrongly say fishes' because fish's is hard to pronounce, and the latter is usually pronounced fishes' for that reason.

    Fishes, all the same, does exist as a word.
    E.g. "Five loaves and two small fishes".
    (Quotation from the Bible).
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I disagree strongly that fishes is used to designate multiple species of fish, say, herring, cod, tuna, etc.
    fish /fɪʃ/ n., pl. (esp. when thought of as a group )fish, (esp. for kinds or species)fish•es, v.


    fish (fish),
    n., pl. ()fish, ()fish•es, [esp. referring to two or more kinds or species][esp. collectively] v.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't often disagree with Velisarius and I'm not clear that I'm about to here.

    Taking her two examples:
    The fish's scales were yellow.
    The fishes' scales were yellow.
    For me, The fish's scales were yellow would have to be talking about one (singular) fish.
    The fishes' scales were yellow would be talking about the scales of more than one fish.

    Although we do often use fish as the plural of fish, I don't think I could use it in the genitive form (fish's (of more than one fish)). I'd have to write fishes'.

    I may be heterodox is this.
     
    Last edited:

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I do agree with that Mr TT.
    Thank you for forcing me to re-read the question.:D

    I think I read what I was expecting to see, and I didn't realise the question was about species of fish.

    The linked-to page has:
    Fishes, with an apostrophe,also serves as the plural possessive of fish—for example, the fishes’ scales were yellow.
    and I think I based my answer on that.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Good. Thank you.

    I wasn't actually talking about different species of fish either.

    I'm not clear that fishes has to refer to plural species rather than to plural fish of any species - The big sea does not care which way the little fishes swim (couldn't they all be herring?)

    I just can't see fish's being the possessive of more than one individual fish. You could make that individual fish the exemplar for the species, of course, but that isn't to turn it into a plural.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's possible that people wrongly say fishes' because fish's is hard to pronounce, and the latter is usually pronounced fishes' for that reason.
    :confused: Their pronunciation is identical.
    I just can't see fish's being the possessive of more than one individual fish.
    I think I agree, since "fish" is a singular mass noun when discussing types of fish - Mackerel: this fish's feeding habits make it easy to catch with lures. I'm describing many fish (plural) but "fish's" is singular.
    So it says fishes is used to refer to multiple species of fish.
    That's not quite what it says. It gives that as an example of how "fishes" is used as a technical term by biologists.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think I agree, since "fish" is a singular mass noun when discussing types of fish - Mackerel: this fish's feeding habits make it easy to catch with lures. I'm describing many fish (plural) but "fish's" is singular.
    That's what I meant by making an individual fish 'the exemplar for the species'. It is a single individual fish but it stands of all its species.
     

    Hinata Sama

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    That's not quite what it says. It gives that as an example of how "fishes" is used as a technical term by biologists.
    Thanks, can I take it that 'fishes' is a term that means all the creatures that can be put into the category of fish? Fish and the like?
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I suppose by "similar" you mean other animals that live in water: clams, squid, etc. No, I wouldn't call them fish.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The maximum extent of 'fish' for a biologist would be: (1) ray-finned fish (the vast majority: cod, carp, herring, salmon, eel, etc.); (2) cartilaginous fish (sharks, rays); (3) lobe-finned fish (lungfish and coelacanths, and we humans belong in here by descent); (4) lampreys; and (5) hagfish. And whatever fossil ancestors are needed to join up this family tree. So those are various kinds, and groups, of fish or fishes. The word 'fishes' is not required for any sense, but might be useful to talk about plurals of fish species:

    A lot of fish live around black smokers (volcanic vents). [vaguer: could just mean large numbers in few species]
    A lot of fishes live around black smokers. [more clearly indicates numerous species]
     
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