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“The news is good.” Why?

Does one ask "What are the news" or "What is the news"? Or are both correct in different situations?

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marked as duplicate by Jonathan Leffler, MT_Head, Thursagen, psmears, RegDwigнt Jul 8 '11 at 8:45

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@Jonathan - You're right, it is. Should've looked before answering... –  MT_Head Jul 8 '11 at 5:15
    
@MT_Head: I only noticed the x-ref in the 'related' list after writing my answer, too.. –  Jonathan Leffler Jul 8 '11 at 6:14
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's very strange: every etymology I find for news shows it originating as a plural:

from Middle English newes, plural of newe new ( adj ) on model of Old French noveles or Medieval Latin nova new things

and yet it certainly isn't used as one now.

You can't have a new; the singular would be a news item, a piece of news, a story, a scoop...

You can refer to the new as an abstract, but that's a synonym for "that which is new":

...and this he apprehended would be particularly felt whenever the time arrived for exchanging the old for the new.
The Parliamentary debates from the year 1803 to the present time, Volume 34

And of course you can begin anew, but that simply means "start again".

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I think the form "What are the news?" is wrong; even though the the word 'news' is plural, it is more of a mass noun (or non-countable noun) than a countable noun (like gold is a mass noun).

Therefore, to my ears, you have to say "What is the news?", treating it as singular (even though it looks singularly like a plural).

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