Re: plural form of 'equipment' ?

Subject: Re: plural form of 'equipment' ?
From: Sandy Nicholson <sandy -at- ambertext -dot- co -dot- uk>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2006 19:00:37 +0100

I characterised `flour', `plastic', `software' and `email' as mass nouns, noting that `sheep' on the other hand is a count noun. Dick replied:

While you're mostly correct, I think there is enough seepage around the edges to confuse a non-native speaker.

That's the trouble with trying to be brief - and of course my answer wasn't going to be entirely helpful to a non-native speaker of English. I assumed that the interested non-native speaker would go on to look up an English grammar for an explanation of mass and count nouns. We're technical writers, aren't we? We expect people to do things like that. :o) Of course, there are some woolly areas, which leads us on to:

Sheep is a single species, and so we talk about multiple breeds of sheep ... But when we talk about fish ... we often read about fishes in scientific contexts.

OK - but: (a) I suspect most people would talk about `breeds of sheep' and `species of fish' rather than `sheeps' and `fishes'; (b) I was referring specifically to Lin's (Linda's) assertion that `equipment', like `sheep', can be both singular and plural - so I was using `sheep' in the everyday sense of the word.

I bake my own bread and have several different flours in the house.

Hmm ... tenuous. :o) I bake my own bread too, and have several kinds of flour in the house (well, two usually). I wouldn't personally talk about `flours', but that's not to say it's wrong.

Looking around my desk, I don't see a lot of plastic, but I do see a number of different plastics.

True indeed - but again an esoteric usage. (Clearly, I should have given more thought to my examples, which were just off the top of my head.)

Overnight I received several emails from clients (but I also received a lot of other email <g>).

That was my point exactly - except that I still prefer to treat `email' as a mass noun in my own writing, sometimes using it attributively in conjunction with `message' etc. (For the avoidance of doubt, Dick's second use of `email' above is as a mass noun - it's not a plural form.)

I'll go along with you on software, though. I can't think of any situation where hardwares or softwares would be correct.

But I've often seen `softwares' and `a software' on the web. It's possible that the usage is mainly by non-native speakers at the moment, maybe because the term `software' has come into use in their own language as a count noun, borrowed from English. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if `software' followed in the footsteps of `email' in making the mass-to-count transition.

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Re: plural form of 'equipment' ?: From: linda_sims
Re: plural form of 'equipment' ?: From: Sandy Nicholson
Re: plural form of 'equipment' ?: From: Dick Margulis

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