"They take showers" or "They take a shower"?

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New Member
Hi, I have a question about distributive plural.
If I replace the subject of the sentence "He takes a shower" with "They," which sounds more natural, "They take a shower" or "They take showers"?
I want to mean that each person takes a shower.
According to Michael Swan's Practical English Usage, when talking about "several people each doing the thing, English usually prefers a plural noun for the repeated idea," and Swan gives the following example (entry 131).
Tell the kids to bring raincoats to school tomorrow. (More natural than Tell the kids to bring a raincoat . . .)
I guess this rule can apply to my sentence above, but I suspect "They take showers" might have a different meaning than I intended.
  • analeeh

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    With this one the singular actually sounds better to me: 'they've all had a shower'. You can get rid of the problem entirely by saying 'they each'. 'Having showers' or 'taking showers' sounds a bit odd, probably because 'have a shower'/'take a shower' feels like a fixed phrase. In the raincoats example both sound fine. But there are other examples where the plural is the only option: 'they all raised their hands'.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think this is matter of personal preference as much as anything. Personally, I find “they [each] take a shower” or, better still, “they take their shower” more natural than “they take showers”. And the context makes a difference. In a list of things people do in a certain situation, a plural noun would be fine. But in a schedule of what’s done when, a singular noun might be better.
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