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I've been reading a Wikipedia article that describes the symptoms of rabies in various species, and I want to add a clarification note about which species (or species) a specific paragraph refers to. How can I make it clear that I'm referring either to the singular or plural of the word "species" when the singular of this word is the same as its plural? "Species or species" is the only grammatically correct way that I can think of, but it seems redundant and confusing. Is there any better way to contrast the singular of "species" from the plural of "species"?

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Could you perhaps qualify them by saying the particular species or multiple species? –  ghoppe Jul 22 '13 at 21:12
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Species is plural for a reason - it is rare for 'species' to refer to only a singular variety of animal or plant, so further subdivision can be achieved by giving the varietal name, so in a flora example, Jasminum humile (species) 'Revolutum' (variety). Similar rules apply to animal species. –  bamboo Oct 4 '13 at 11:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Since both the singular and plural of species are identical, you need to look to context to establish the distinction you seek. A common way to distinguish is to use adjectives or articles that, by their nature, convey singular or plural.

This virus is known to infect various species of bats. It is especially virulent in that particular species living in this cave, the Little Brown Bat.

or

The virus infects cave dwelling bats. Those species are at risk. In particular, the Little Brown Bat is susceptible. This species may soon be threatened.

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How can I make it clear that I'm referring either to the singular or plural of the word "species" when the singular of this word is the same as its plural? "Species or species" is the only grammatically correct way that I can think of, but it seems redundant and confusing.

The accepted answer covers a good way of doing this, but you might want to use "one or more species" for referring to singular or plural.

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protected by RegDwigнt Oct 4 '13 at 8:45

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