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What's the plural of "chewing gum"?

Hearing "do you have any chewing gums?" sounds wrong; I would say "do you have any chewing gum?", but looking it up, there seems to be a bit of confusion on Google. Some results indicate that "chewing gums" is the plural form of "chewing gum", while others say that "chewing gum" is an uncountable noun, and has the same plural as the singlar form.

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2  
See fruits, which behaves grammatically like chewing gums. –  Peter Shor Apr 22 '12 at 14:19
    
Note that referring to the flesh in the mouth holding your teeth in is an uncountable noun that is always in the plural form: 'gums'. –  Mitch Apr 22 '12 at 18:31

5 Answers 5

up vote 38 down vote accepted

Chewing gum is an uncountable (mass) noun, and therefore follows these rules for plurals:

singular: chewing gum This chewing gum is delicious.
plural 1: chewing gum Do you have any chewing gum?
plural 2: chewing gums Ten of the chewing gums in our test lost flavor after two minutes.

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Noun
chewing gum (plural chewing gums)
A flavoured preparation of chicle or synthetic rubber, made for chewing.

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I concur with the others that "chewing gum" by itself is an uncountable noun.

The normal format when you want to refer to multiples of chewing gum, without referring to different types or flavors, is to apply units to the gum:

I went through six sticks of chewing gum while my plane was delayed

or

Between the 6 of us, we chewed 2 packs of gum and drank 10 liters of Mountain Dew... and spent 90 minutes in the bathroom.

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This is similar to "beer" versus "beers".

"Do you have any beers?" is wrong, but consider: "She started to sound grammatical after I had a couple of beers."

"Waters" can refer to multiple bodies of water.

"The train ride was long so I went through six chewing gums."

Some apparently plurale tantum nouns are not strictly that way; just in some semantic uses.

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"Chewing gum" in the context you give is an uncountable noun and you are correct to say you would not use a plural form in that question.

However, it can also refer to a brand or type of chewing gum, which I imagine is the sense meant by the sites recommending a plural s. Although the plural s is correct in this context, it's still unusual to hear: while "there was a range of chewing gums available in the shop" is grammatically fine, "there were several brands of chewing gum available" would be more common.

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2  
I would prefer "there was a range of chewing gum available in the shop", rather like fish. –  Henry Apr 22 '12 at 14:58
    
I agree, that would be preferable to either of my examples, but I was mainly trying to show how the plural s can sometimes be grammatically acceptable. Mark's answer has a better choice of example for this case. –  Graham Snyder Apr 22 '12 at 15:05

protected by RegDwigнt Apr 22 '12 at 20:02

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