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    #1

    reading a book or reading books?

    Hi,
    I was wondering which one of the following sentences is correct?
    They are reading a book. or They are reading books.
    They are eating a hamburger or They are eating hamburgers.

    Should we make the noun (i.e. a book, a hamburger) plural because of the pronoun?

    Are both of them correct? Does it depend on the context?

  1. teechar's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: reading a book or reading books?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jilibili View Post
    They are reading a book.
    two or more people, one book

    Quote Originally Posted by Jilibili View Post
    They are reading books.
    two or more people, two or more books

    Quote Originally Posted by Jilibili View Post
    They are eating a hamburger.
    two or more people, one hamburger

    Quote Originally Posted by Jilibili View Post
    They are eating hamburgers.
    two or more people, two or more hamburgers

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    #3

    Re: reading a book or reading books?

    Thanks for your response.

    So you mean all of them are correct and possible?

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    #4

    Re: reading a book or reading books?

    Yes. teechar has just demonstrated that.

  2. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: reading a book or reading books?

    http://www.google.co.jp/imgres?imgur...FUQspgod4ygH0A

    How should I describe the picture?
    Is it OK for me to say "They are reading a book" or should I say "Each of them is reading a book"?
    I'm sorry to ask such a silly question.

  3. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: reading a book or reading books?

    I would say 'They are each reading a book', but I am not a teacher.

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    #7

    Re: reading a book or reading books?

    This idea of "distributive plurals" can be researched.

    Sometimes either can be used without confusion.
    The girls all brought a book with them. -- You can assume each had their own.

    The girls bought a book for their friend's birthday. -- Did they all pay towards one book, or each give their own? You would have to clarify.

    Use common sense - many people would not eat one hamburger. They were all having a hamburger when I got there. -- You're not confused, are you?
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 09-Aug-2015 at 16:52. Reason: Fixing typo. Thank you, Matthew.
    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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    #8

    Re: reading a book or reading books?

    ===== Not a teacher =====

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    I'm sorry to ask such a silly question.
    There is no silly question when it comes to true inquiring. With this picture I could understand better the reasons for your doubt.

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    How should I describe the picture?
    Is it OK for me to say "They are reading a book" or should I say "Each of them is reading a book"?
    I'm sorry to ask such a silly question.
    Here I would never say "They are reading a book", instead "Each of them is reading a book" is perfect.

    "They are reading books" is also OK - although not so precise as the previous (it would need context to be understood).

    You may also say "They are each reading a book".

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