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    #1

    potentials or potential

    A long time ago somebody opened this thread: https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/t...-or-Potentials, where it is expressed that potentials is not used, but potential (sg.) or potentialities. It was closed soon afterwards.

    Somebody proofread some pages of my thesis and crossed out the plural form of potential. Somebody else read the same thing and did not.

    Now I searched at how often 'potentials' is used at site:nytimes.com and there are more than 1500 results including the use in headlines such as
    "Helping Vines to Reach Potentials" or "Pushing, Prodding and Exploring the Potentials of Men". 'Potentialities' has much less results there.

    Is the use of 'potentials' wrong or is it bad style?

    In my work I used sentences such as:
    "The ecological situation is examined based on studies that focus on deforestation and local potentials of vegetation." "... to activate environmental potentials (before specific 'potentials' are mentioned' such as tree planting as wind protection, increase of the water table etc.)", (Both [the market and the riverbed which is mentioned before] are unused potentials today) etc.


  1. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: potentials or potential

    Before you ask whether you can pluralize potential it is important to first understand what potential is. Potential is possibility. It is a possibility that we hope can be realized. It is the possibility of achieving certain goals. We have the ability to do it. It's what we are capable of. That's our potential.

  2. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: potentials or potential

    I guess you could claim that if a person didn't do what he was capable of doing that he didn't use his potential. Thus his potential was unused. So is potential something like a talent that either gets used or doesn't get used? Or are there different kinds of potential? What if a person has the potential to do one thing but decides to do something else?

  3. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: potentials or potential

    Good question!

    Tarheel has made some excellent points. I agree with you, Chrichrichri, that we all have different potentials. But that plural form isn't common, and in the examples you've shown us, I would have used the singular: potential.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #5

    Re: potentials or potential

    It's not that uncommon to see nouns that are normally uncountable being used in the plural nowadays- evidences is one that I see used now. As language is in flux, they may catch on or not- if enough people use them often enough, they will become accepted eventually.

  4. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: potentials or potential

    This one reminded me of the poem "Potential"

    Potential

    Ron says I have potential.
    That's the power to achieve.
    But there's a catch, he says.
    First I have to believe.
    I have to believe in myself.
    I have to believe in what's possible,
    Believe in what I can do,
    And work to achieve that potential.
    #

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