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  1. #1
    peppy_man is offline Member
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    Default Singular or plural? They lost their job(s).

    Though this might be a very basic question, I'm sure that it's an important question.

    (1) 'Many people lost their job.'

    (2) 'Many people lost their jobs'.

    I often see both (1) and (2) on the Internet.
    Which is acceptable? Is there any difference between them?

    (3) 'Many people have their own self-motivation.'

    I think that the sentence (3) more exactly means that 'each one of the many people has his/her own self-motivation' and each one has only ONE self-motivation.
    From this point of view, the sentence (2) means that 'each one of the many people lost his/her jobs' because 'jobs' is plural. This means that each one of them had more than one job, perhaps doing side jobs or part time jobs.
    On the other hand, the sentence (1) means that 'each one of the many people had only one job' because 'job' is singular.

    The sentence (2) got more hits on Google, but I cannot believe that so many people were having side jobs and lost their jobs
    which include both their main job and side jobs.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Singular or plural? They lost their job(s).

    I don't honestly think that the general interpretation would be losing more than one job, regardless of the plural, though the plural would be the only form for more than one job. However, if people were losing more than one job, I'd probably say 'all their jobs' to make it clearer.

  3. #3
    peppy_man is offline Member
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    Default Re: Singular or plural? They lost their job(s).

    tdol, thank you for your reply.

    And,,,

    (1) Many people lost their job.

    (2) Many people lost their jobs.

    Which is correct? Which is more appropriate? Both are OK?
    Last edited by peppy_man; 15-Jun-2005 at 06:35. Reason: edit

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Singular or plural? They lost their job(s).

    Well, it's ambiguous. The reason being, people can have more than one job:

    [1] Max and Pat lost their jobs.
    => Two people, two jobs each.
    => Two people, one job each.

    Consider something like, parking a car:

    [2] Max and Pat parked their cars. (Two people, one car each)

    Note, it's physically impossible for one person to park two cars at the same time, so the meaning expressed in [2] is, Max parked her car and Pat parked his car.

    Without -s, [3] below becomes ambiguous:

    [3] Max and Pat parked their car.
    => They came in the same car, and one of them is parking it.
    => They each have one car, and each of them is parking it.

    Context is important. I agree with tdol. Try to disambiguate the sentence, e.g.

    [4] They lost their jobs at tha plant. (Many people, one job each)
    => They each had only one job at the plant.

  5. #5
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Singular or plural? They lost their job(s).

    Quote Originally Posted by peppy_man View Post
    Though this might be a very basic question, I'm sure that it's an important question.

    (1) 'Many people lost their job.'

    (2) 'Many people lost their jobs'.

    I often see both (1) and (2) on the Internet.
    Which is acceptable? Is there any difference between them?

    (3) 'Many people have their own self-motivation.'

    I think that the sentence (3) more exactly means that 'each one of the many people has his/her own self-motivation' and each one has only ONE self-motivation.
    From this point of view, the sentence (2) means that 'each one of the many people lost his/her jobs' because 'jobs' is plural. This means that each one of them had more than one job, perhaps doing side jobs or part time jobs.
    On the other hand, the sentence (1) means that 'each one of the many people had only one job' because 'job' is singular.

    The sentence (2) got more hits on Google, but I cannot believe that so many people were having side jobs and lost their jobs
    which include both their main job and side jobs.
    ***NOT A TEACHER***

    (1) I stumbled across a wonderful discussion on the Web about this matter.

    (2) Ostriches bury their HEAD/HEADS in the sand.

    (3) Some very learned commenters treat us to a scrumptious discussion.

    (4) I learned that English favors the plural. (Shakespeare used "their headS" exclusively, it is said.)

    (5) "Continental" languages favor the singular.

    (6) I had to share this exciting discovery with usingenglish fans. Just go to Google and type in "Language Log > their heads."

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