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  1. YAMATO2201's Avatar
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    #1

    Dogs have tails.

    1 Dogs have tails.
    2 A dog has a tail.
    3 Dogs have a tail.

    [Question 1] Which is the most common?

    [Question 2] Do you think that there exist any native English speakers who hate sentence 1 because it sounds to them like "A dog has more than one tail"?

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    #2

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    Number 1 is common and natural. The same construction is illogical in French and most likely some other languages, but it's fine in English.

    There's a linguistic term that distinguishes languages that require plurals from those that take the singular in phrases like number 1. Unfortunately I can't remember it and haven't been able to find it.
    Last edited by GoesStation; 27-Jan-2017 at 13:58. Reason: To insert a missing word.
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  3. YAMATO2201's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    There's a linguistic
    Thank you so much.
    Does sentence 2 sound weird to you?

    ------------------------------------------
    linguistic --> a type of linguistics?
    Last edited by YAMATO2201; 27-Jan-2017 at 05:07.

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    #4

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    Quote Originally Posted by YAMATO2201 View Post
    [Question 2] Do you think that there exist any native English speakers who hate sentence 1 because it sounds to them like "A dog has more than one tail"?
    No native speaker would ever interpret the sentence this way. You'd have to say something like "Dogs have many/several tails" to possibly get that interpretation, if they didn't just consider it as unclear or bad writing.

    Anybody who knows the least thing about dogs (or even animals in general) is going to subconsciously rule out the possibility of multiple tails per animal. Perhaps if they happened to pick up on the potential humor, they might then notice it could be interpreted that way.

    Even then, I think my first reaction upon reading my example would be to consider it some kind of pun on the word 'tales'.
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    #5

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    That reminds me of the saying 'He's happier than a dog with two tails' (dogs wag their tails when they're happy, so he's twice as happy).

    (Don't bother correcting me if I've got that quote a bit wrong.)

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    #6

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    Quote Originally Posted by YAMATO2201 View Post
    [Question 2] Do you think that there exist any native English speakers who hate sentence 1 because it sounds to them like "A dog has more than one tail"?
    Do you think many native speakers believe sentence #3 would be the natural sentence to use if you saw five dogs sharing a tail? I guess the number would be the same for both questions. We know that dogs have one tail and that they don't share them. The singular and plural issues here follow the logic of our eyes. If we saw something that broke the rule, we would make it a lot clearer- I saw a dog with two tails yesterday.

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    #7

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    Quote Originally Posted by YAMATO2201 View Post
    linguistic --> a type of linguistics?
    Yes. I left out the word term. I've fixed it now.
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    #8

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    Quote Originally Posted by YAMATO2201 View Post
    2 A dog has a tail.
    Quote Originally Posted by YAMATO2201 View Post
    Does sentence 2 sound weird to you?
    It's not typical but it could occur in a specific, rare context.
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    #9

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Do you think many native speakers believe sentence #3 would be the natural sentence to use if you saw five dogs sharing a tail?
    No, I don't.
    ---------------------
    About 'Question 2'.
    A certain Japanese teacher of English says in his book that some native English speakers avoid sentence #1 because it sounds to them like "A dog has more than one tail". I wanted to know whether or not such explanation was correct.

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    #10

    Re: Dogs have tails.

    This is purely conjecture on my part, but perhaps a native Japanese speaker familiar with Japanese mythology of the multi-tailed kitsune would be more inclined to believe this a possible native English speaker interpretation.

    If you were used to reading about creatures with multiple tails, then perhaps that would influence your thinking on possible interpretations of the English version.

    I freely admit it's not very likely, but I thought I'd throw it out there.
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