the fishes' or the fish's

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Hinata Sama, Sep 26, 2015.

  1. Hinata Sama

    Hinata Sama Senior Member

    Hi, friends.
    I was reading this webpage.
    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.
  2. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

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

    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.
  3. Jason_2_toi

    Jason_2_toi Senior Member

    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).
  4. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    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.
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

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

    Taking her two examples:
    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: Sep 27, 2015
  6. velisarius

    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:
    and I think I based my answer on that.
  7. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    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.
  8. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    :confused: Their pronunciation is identical.
    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 not quite what it says. It gives that as an example of how "fishes" is used as a technical term by biologists.
  9. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    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.
  10. Hinata Sama

    Hinata Sama Senior Member

    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?
  11. Barque Senior Member

    Would you like to elaborate "and the like"?
  12. Hinata Sama

    Hinata Sama Senior Member

    Creatures that are similar to fish.
  13. Barque Senior Member

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

    Hinata Sama Senior Member

    But maybe they belong to fishes, by biologists.
  15. Barque Senior Member

    I think a biologist would be much more particular about this than I am. :) Perhaps if one's a member here, we'll get a definite answer.
  16. entangledbank

    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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