singular or plural?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by mathman, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,433
    "This equation has no root."
    "This equation has no roots."

    Are these equally acceptable or is one preferred?
     
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,914
    Equations can have more than one root, yes?

    So either is correct.

    This house has no bathroom.
    This house has no bathrooms.
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Indeed. In a circumstance where only one object is normally expected, the singular is preferable. If multiple objects are normally expected, then the plural is preferable.

    If it's not known whether one object or multiple objects are expected, either is acceptable. Nonetheless, after running it through my head, I personally would use the singular because it would always be correct.

    If the house has no bathrooms at all, then even though most houses have at least two (in the USA, where a "bathroom" might have only a toilet and a lavatory, with no actual facility for bathing

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    ), this particular house has no bathroom.
     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,493
    How about the terms Math & Maths? All my life Math has been used and now it seem popular to use the term Maths. I know they are both acceptable terms. However just plain Math is mostly used in the US while Maths is mostly an English term more popular in Europe.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Absolutely no one in the USA says or writes "maths." On this side of the Whaleroad, the word is "math."

    Dictionary.com, an American website, agrees, although it says "chiefly British," rather than "only British."
     
    Walter L. Wagner likes this.
  9. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,433
    My guess (maths-s?). I suspect it is not a question of singular or plural, but rather they are shortened forms of "mathematics" which has an s at the end.
     
  10. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,493
    Yes I have heard that. It's just that I have been seeing that term used more frequently in this forum, and the impression I have is that most of the people using maths are doing so because they think it's the new cool term to use.
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Indeed. The ending -ics is unusual, because despite the -S that generally identifies a plural noun, words ending in -ics are construed as singular.

    Moreover, although words ending in -ics often take the definite article (the physics of black holes, the basics of string theory, the politics of jihad), they never take the indefinite article (no such phrase as "an aeronautics," "a mathematics," or "an acoustics").

    The origin of the suffix and its various forms is murky, but it seems that "-ic" was common prior to the 1500s. At that point a renaissance of Greek scholarship brought attention to the Greek suffix -ikos which was (blessedly) contracted to "-ics." This sheds some light on the phenomenon that older words like "arithmetic" have no -S, while neologisms like "semiotics" do.

    Dictionary.com, which is an American website but nonetheless a very complete one, says only that we condensed "mathematics" into "math" by truncating the last three syllables, while the British decided to retain the -S, and it offers no explanation.

    But it also notes that while "math" is treated as a singular noun in American English, on the other side of the Atlantic proper usage allows both singular and plural: "Math was difficult my wife" and "Maths were..." are both allowed.
     

Share This Page