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    #1

    Plural and singular

    Hi, I hope you can help with this. I have a debate with my friend about using plural and singular in a sentence.

    He thinks this sentence is correct..

    In the video of M. Butterfly, Asian women are viewed as sexual beings that are there for pleasure and entertainment to White men while their wives are absent.

    I said it should be "wife" not "wives" because it would mean each man has more than one wife.

    Similarly,

    "Asian men do not cheat on their wife" versus "Asian men do not cheat on their wives".

    or

    "People, use your brain!" versus "People, use your brains!" which implies one has more than one brain.
    And finally, "Children finish your food" versus "Children finish your foods".



    He thinks because you are using plural that the possession has to also be plural and I disagree. What do you think?


    Thanks

    Pat
    Last edited by pixelboy; 13-Apr-2009 at 21:14.

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Plural and singular

    I think they all read more naturally in the plural.

    Between them, multiple people have multiple... whatevers.

    Two people have two brains, two married men have two wives.

    You can make the reverse argument: Married men cheat on their wife. Do they all share the same wife? People, use your brain! Do they have one brain that they must share?

    The exception is "food" which does have a plural form, but in that sentence, it's not countable, so just use "food."


    • Join Date: Apr 2009
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    #3

    Re: Plural and singular

    Thanks for your input Barb but I am still not convinced on this. Does anyone else have an opinion or know for sure what the proper structure is?

    In my opinion, the sentence is addressing more than one person at the same time but that each person still possess something that is singular.

    For instance, there are 3 kids who are eating soup (they have 1 bowl each). Instead of the parent saying, "Jack, finish your soup!", "Jill, finish your soup!", "Mike, finish your soup!" in three separate sentences, they can say "Children, finish your soup!" You would not say, "Chidren, finish your soups" which would mean each of them has more than one bowl of soup.

    So if you break up the sentence, the first part address the group but the second part describes what EACH of the individual in the group possess.

    Similarly, a teacher can say, "Class, open your math book to page 33" not "Class, open your math books to page 33".
    This sentence says, the teacher is addressing a bunch of individuals, but each individual has one book.
    How would you make a sentences if each individual in a group has more than one possession then? Let's say for instance in India where the men can have many wives.

    So if I say, "Indian men don't cheat on their wives" if we go by what Barb said above, the description of how many wives each men has is lost in translation because it can be 1 or 5. We don't know since using the plural for wives (instead of wife) was addressed to the possession of the group as a whole, and not to the individual.

    In conclusion, the way I see it is that the first part of the sentence is addressing more than one individual and the second part of the sentence describes the quantity of possession of each of the individual in that group. Does that make sense? If you pluralize the possession, then the quantity becomes meaningless doesn't it?
    Last edited by pixelboy; 14-Apr-2009 at 21:02.

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Plural and singular

    You'll have to wait for other people to respond.

    I maintain the reverse ambuguity is also possible, and there is no neat solution.

    The boys enjoyed playing with their puppy.

    Are there two brothers who share the puppy, or does each each boy have his own puppy?

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    #5

    Re: Plural and singular

    I agree with Barb_D.
    The plurals do sound more natural because that is what is usually said, and I think for good reason.

    It is more natural and logical to talk about 'students opening their books' and 'men not cheating on their wives'. (By the way, it doesn't matter that some men may have only one wife each and others may have more than one.)

    Saying 'students open your books' does not mean that each student has more than one book to open.

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