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    #1

    We have a nose/We have noses

    Distributive singular and distributive plural are still difficult to me.
    You say, "We have a nose," and it does not mean we share a nose.

    Please look at the following sentences and tell me if my understanding is correct.

    1. If Mr. A has a good wife, Mr. B has a good wife, and Mr. C has a good wife, which one of the following sentences is appropriate?

    1) They have a good wife.
    2) They have good wives.

    I feel 2) is appropriate because they do not share a single wife, and I do not think that people will misunderstand that each of them has more than one wife. In this sentence, "they" means the three specific people.

    2. Which one of the following sentences is appropriate?

    1) Men usually want to have a good wife.
    2) Men usually want to have good wives.

    I feel 1) is appropriate in this case, and I do not think that people will misunderstand that each man wants to share a single wife, because "men" in this sentence means each man.

    3. What about the following cases?

    1) We have a nose.
    2) We have a car.

    "We have noses" may be a possible sentence, but "we" in this sentence means each person (not specified) and 1) is a natural expression.
    "We have a car." means "We jointly own a single car," because "we" in this sentence means specific people (maybe a couple).

    Am I correct?

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: We have a nose/We have noses

    Quote Originally Posted by Snappy View Post
    Distributive singular and distributive plural are still difficult to me.
    You say, "We have a nose," and it does not mean we share a nose.
    We would say this mainly in such utterances as: 'we (humans) have a nose, whilst elephants have a trunk'. Even here we could use plurals.

    Please look at the following sentences and tell me if my understanding is correct.

    1. If Mr. A has a good wife, Mr. B has a good wife, and Mr. C has a good wife, which one of the following sentences is appropriate?

    1) They have a good wife. No
    2) They have good wives. Yes

    I feel 2) is appropriate because they do not share a single wife, and I do not think that people will misunderstand that each of them has more than one wife. In this sentence, "they" means the three specific people. Yes

    2. Which one of the following sentences is appropriate?

    1) Men usually want to have a good wife. Possible.
    2) Men usually want to have good wives. Possible

    I feel 1) is appropriate in this case, and I do not think that people will misunderstand that each man wants to share a single wife, because "men" in this sentence means each man. You are probably right, but I feel that both are possible, and that #2 is more likely.

    3. What about the following cases?

    1) We have a nose. No, except as I noted above.
    2) We have a car. Yes

    "We have noses" may be a possible sentence, but "we" in this sentence means each person (not specified) and 1) is a natural expression. No
    "We have a car." means "We jointly own a single car," because "we" in this sentence means specific people (maybe a couple). Yes

    Am I correct?
    Logic doesn't come into it in practice. We shook our heads is what we say. We shook our head is not.

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