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When referring to two or more clusters of ivy, is it ivy, ivies, or something else entirely?

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up vote 21 down vote accepted

Ivy is similar to grass (and water). There is technically a plural, but in practice it is almost always treated as a quantity noun (a word that is inherently plural). This is because it grows together in big intertwined clumps, so it is nearly impossible without manually uprooting to tell it which ivy leaves belong to different plants and which to the same plant.

So the only time you'd really use the plural would be in talking about multiple different patches of it, or in talking about all the different varieties of it. eg: "My yard is overrun with ivies" might indicate that I have multiple different species of the plant. If I have just one big patch growing, I'd say, "My yard is overrun with ivy."

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+1 This really well defines the plural and when you should use it. – Ambo100 Jun 2 '11 at 12:59
I think the plural is just for multiple varieties of ivy, not for different patches of it. – LarsH Jun 2 '11 at 15:18
@LarsH - I think I'm going to have to agree with you. You could possibly justify using the plural if the patches are waaaaay separated somehow. Another use I just thought of would be in reference to multiple Ivy League Universities. – T.E.D. Jun 2 '11 at 16:02

The plural of "ivy" is "ivies"

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-1: while this is technically true, it is fundamentally misleading. – user1579 Jun 2 '11 at 15:03
I disagree with @Rhodri... Only those who have a mistaken idea about what the plural of ivy is used for are misled, and they are misled by their mistaken idea about usage, not by information about what the plural of ivies is. "Not as helpful as it could be" is not a good reason for downvoting an answer. – LarsH Jun 2 '11 at 15:14
To elaborate on the above... yes, a good answerer will try to see through the contradictions in the original question and attempt to address both what the OP said and what he/she meant, or might have meant. Doing so is a good reason to upvote an answer, but merely answering a stated question is not a good reason to downvote. – LarsH Jun 2 '11 at 16:48
@LarsH: the trouble is that this answer gives a reader no hint that the use of the plural is in any way unusual. In that way, it is significantly less useful than the equally technically correct answer "Yes." – user1579 Jun 2 '11 at 17:05
@LarsH: I think that is entirely Rhodri's point. – Mitch Jul 18 '11 at 12:52

T.E.D.'s answer has covered the uses of ivy and ivies, but if you actually need to refer to two or more clusters of ivy, as you initially asked, you can use ivy plants.

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protected by RegDwigнt Mar 1 '13 at 0:34

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