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  1. HaraKiriBlade's Avatar
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    Can 'rights' be singular?

    I'm writing an essay about animal rights. And while writing it, I realized I have trouble determining whether the word 'rights' is plural, singular, or both.

    Can I write sentences like the following?

    No animals have intellect to acknowledge rights or ask for it.
    (Should I be saying "...acknowledge rights or ask for them" instead? but then using the pronoun "them" for such abstract thing as "rights" sound rather odd)

    because lawmakers are sensible enough to know that rights is a very human concept and cannot be applied directly to animals.
    ("a right" in this sentence would sound rather strange to me)
    Clarification on this matter would be very much appreciated!
    HKB out!

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    Re: Can 'rights' be singular?

    Hi HKB! How's my buddy?

    I thought at first this would be easy, but your second example got me thinking. The first sentence "...ask for them" is clearly plural. The second sentence, to my ear, sounds OK both ways, "...rights are a human..." or "...rights is a human..." If I were writing this, I would avoid the conflict by making something else the subject of the sentence, "...the idea of rights is a human..."

    By the way, they and them are what we have for a plural form of the pronoun it, it doesn't matter if the it is abstract or concrete.

  2. Mariner's Avatar

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    Re: Can 'rights' be singular?

    ...acknowledge rights or ask for them know that rights is a very human concept

    In my opinion, it's a similar case with the following example:
    Statistics show that more people are...
    Statistics is a fascinating subject

    In one case it describes the figures, while in the other the (university) subject. Similarly, "rights" in one case describes the rights themselves, while in the other it describes the concept.

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