traffic light or traffic lights

EdisonBhola

Senior Member
Korean
Sometimes I see people write "traffic light" instead of "traffic lights"; is it really acceptable? The only way I can make sense of "traffic light" is if we are talking about just one light, like the red traffic light, or the green traffic light. When talking about the structure consisting of three lights (1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green), shouldn't we always use "traffic lights" in the plural?

Thanks!
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    The traffic light is either a single lamp, or more rarely a set of three (red, amber, green) on one post.
    Traffic lights are either a set of three (red, amber, green) on one post, or a number of such sets around a crossroads, or a number of such sets along a straight road.

    Confusing? The context usually makes it clear.
     

    Hitchhiker

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I usually say, "traffic light" if I am referring to one intersection, such as, "Turn left at the traffic light." I would say, "traffic lights" if I was referring to more than one intersection, such as, "The power is out and the traffic lights are not working."
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    The traffic light is either a single lamp, or more rarely a set of three (red, amber, green) on one post.
    Most Americans, like Hitchhiker, would use "traffic light" to mean a triple light, so that use is much more common due to the relative quantities of single and triple lights..

    And, of course, the word traffic is optional, given sufficient context: "Turn right at the next corner, go through the first two lights, and turn left at the third one."
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm with Keith Bradford in #2.

    In my experience we tend to say 'traffic lights' more often than 'traffic light', meaning a set of two or more individual 'posts' or 'poles'.

    And we also say such things as 'turn left at the lights'. And, perhaps to a child, 'Cross when the lights turn green'. (No 'traffic').
     
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    Dretagoto

    Senior Member
    Inglés británico
    I would use (I think exclusively) traffic lights, in plural, though "traffic light" doesn't sound particularly odd or unnatural to me. But in contrast to heypresto, I would say "cross when the light turns green" for a pedestrian crossing.
     

    theLink

    New Member
    French
    I'm sorry for reviving this thread but a couple of things are not clear to me.

    In British English, when talking about one set of three lamps, would you say:

    a. New traffic lights were installed last week.
    b. A new traffic light was installed last week.

    Would you also say "I got out at the traffic lights." or "I got out at the traffic light." ?

    Lastly, in American English, is it true that a "stoplight" can mean a "traffic light"?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    In British English:

    a. New traffic lights were installed last week. :tick:
    b. A new traffic light was installed last week. :cross:

    Would you also say "I got out at the traffic lights." :tick:or "I got out at the traffic light." :cross:
     

    4es4ernikov

    New Member
    Russian - Ukraine
    In British English:

    a. New traffic lights were installed last week. :tick:
    b. A new traffic light was installed last week. :cross:

    Would you also say "I got out at the traffic lights." :tick:or "I got out at the traffic light." :cross:
    Thank you ! It is clear about different usage in British and American English.

    But can we say " this traffic lights is new " instead of " these traffic lights are new" as we can do with the words like " crossroads" or " headquarters" ?
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    But can we say " this traffic lights is new
    No. Sorry. In AE, this is a traffic light (singular)
    images
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yes, a stoplight is a traffic light in American English.

    I admit I'm having a hard time imaginng what a single light would be good for, except as a flashing red.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    "Turn right at the next corner, go through the first two lights, and turn left at the third one."
    I’m still struggling with the difference between AE /BE here.
    This isn’t a good example for showing the “singular” use because it feature two lights!

    Would Americans say:
    Turn right at the next corner, go through the first light and turn left at the second one?
     
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