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Thread: Plural Objects

  1. #1
    hicksonster is offline Newbie
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    Default Plural Objects

    Why is it acceptable to say "They put on their uniforms (and not uniform) to go to school" but it's better to say "They wear a shirt (and not shirts) to go to work"? It's like saying "Mark the locations where a hole will be drilled" versus "Mark the locations where holes will be drilled". Which one of these sentences is grammatically correct?

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    Default Re: Plural Objects

    You can use any combination as long as the meaning is clear. People wear only one uniform at a time, and no one uniform is shared by two people at a time, so either sentence is clear.

    If you are installing something that requires two holes at each location, then "holes" would be the obvious choice. But if you are just drilling one hole per location, then mark the locations where each hole will be drilled is quite clear. (Note I said "each hole" the "the hole" for added clarity.

    When there could be confusion as to whether each person had one or more than one, then rewriting is needed.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. #3
    hicksonster is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Plural Objects

    If the choice between "plural nouns with plural objects" and "plural nouns with singular objects" depends entirely on the context and the clarity of the sentence, then does it also apply to the usage of the possessive preposition "... of ..."?

    For example, if an electronic device has exactly one enable switch and you want to express that when many of these devices are used together, the enable switch of each device must be configured a certain way, which of the following is grammatically correct?

    (1) The enable switch of devices must be ... , or
    (2) The enable switches of devices must be...

    The problem I have with the second one (which I believe is correct) is that it could easily be misinterpreted as a collection of devices, with each device having more than one switch.

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    Default Re: Plural Objects

    Quote Originally Posted by hicksonster View Post
    The problem I have with the second one (which I believe is correct) is that it could easily be misinterpreted as a collection of devices, with each device having more than one switch.
    You have already said that each electronic device has exactly one enable switch. So, no problem.

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    hicksonster is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Plural Objects

    Hi, I was only trying to clarify my question by explicitly stating that each device has exactly one switch, etc... But I would still like to know which of the two examples given is correct or at least preferred. I mean the first sentence could very well mean that only one switch exists for all those devices, and the second sentence is rather ambiguous.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Plural Objects

    Quote Originally Posted by hicksonster View Post
    Hi, I was only trying to clarify my question by explicitly stating that each device has exactly one switch, etc... But I would still like to know which of the two examples given is correct or at least preferred. I mean the first sentence could very well mean that only one switch exists for all those devices, and the second sentence is rather ambiguous.
    Can you explain what sort of a context you are envisaging for this?

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    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plural Objects

    You could say the enable switch (singular) of each device to make it clear that there is a 1:1 correspondence.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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