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What is the plural form of the word "equipment"? Is the word "equipment" singular?

Context: for tools/objects

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Equipment used as a singular is a collective noun. We do not inflect collective nouns into the plural for them to take on their collective sense. Nonetheless, equipments also exists as a word, just with a non-collective meaning. Most of the answers you have here are wrong. You have not given an example set of sentences, so there is no way to tell whether you want a singular collective sense or not. –  tchrist Jun 13 '12 at 12:14

6 Answers 6

"Equipment" is nearly always used as a mass noun, not a count noun. There may be a few obscure exceptions, but they would be very rare. Mass nouns don't have plurals (except when they double as count nouns).

So anything you say with "equipments" in it is more than likely to be ungrammatical. I recommend avoiding this word.

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So, are you also suggesting that "equipments" is a wrong word? –  user20934 Jun 13 '12 at 11:56
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I think I said "may be a few obscure exceptions". In other words, there may be cases where "equipments" is OK; I just can't think of any. However, reading the comments above, it seems that the OED has some exceptions. I shall go and look them up, and hopefully learn something. –  user16269 Jun 13 '12 at 12:41
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The best answer. –  Alex B. Jun 13 '12 at 15:02
    
The OED has 34 results for equipments across all definitions, the most recent a quotation from 1971. But it only has three as part of the equipment definition (1793, 1801, 1873). So "may be a few obscure exceptions" sounds fair to me. –  Hugo Jun 13 '12 at 17:27
    
David, are you telling me that there is no such relation between water, folk and equipment as I have seen it ? Besides I don't like that you have used the word ungrammatical, because you haven't told us what is grammatical for you. When you are trying to prove the opposite of one statement you have to define your statement. Simple Math. –  speedyGonzales Jun 14 '12 at 7:26

First of all I want to make my point the I have heard equipments, but it was really in very very rare cases. I think that both are possible although they would mean different things.

Equipment is collective noun and as such can be used in plural. Although there are a lot of collective nouns that can be used with -s or without and they mean different things.

For example what is the plural of water- water. But we can say waters when revering to different types of waters in sea, oceans, river and ect. Another example is folk and folks. Folks is collective noun for group of people, while folks referring to collection of different groups of people.

Therefore when we are speaking about different machines for fitness we can call them equipment. When we are speaking about fitness equipment and fishing equipment, we should use equipments.

Don't forget that English is something alive and in different areas in different countries even native born English folks have their own English within their own community , with different way of living, different jobs, they belong to different parts of the society and ect. English is a languages and there is nothing constant in languages it changes and evolves every day.

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Short answer: use 'equipment', do not use 'equipments'

Long answer: in Modern Standard English, 'equipment' is a mass or non-count noun, like 'water' or 'traffic', which describes something that is somehow implicitly plural but doesn't have a plural form. That is, it wouldn't make sense to have more than one equipment, since it describes a set of things already. 'Equipment' is already plural in the sense that it refers to a number of things together. There are instances where one has more than one set of these things, the many waters of the world.

To address some of the controversy mentioned elsewhere:

  • 'the OED has 34 entries': if you look at what a current search for 'equipment' returns 34 of, it is 'stemming' (removing suffixes) in some arbitrary fashion. The OED search matches against the word, not any words in the definition or quotes, and the 34 words matched for 'equipments' includes 'equipment' along with 33 other words which are not 'equipments'.

  • 'dictionaries leave out the plural': yes, they do but they also don't mark if a word is a mass noun like 'water', so you can't tell if there is no plural form as in a mass noun. A proper dictionary will give the plural form if it is mot simply '-s', e.g. 'ox, n. pl. oxen' or 'daisy, n. pl. -ies'.

  • 'the OED has a definition for equipments': yes, it does.

    2 a. concr. Anything used in equipping; furniture; outfit; warlike apparatus; necessaries for an expedition or voyage. Used in the pl. to indicate the articles severally, in the sing. collectively.

    1873 Act 36 & 37 Vict. c. 88 Sched. 1, Equipments which are primâ facie evidence of a Vessel being engaged in the Slave Trade

    This definition might be used but it is a technical usage, like for hardware or military use.

  • 'Google gives X million hits', 'Google Ngrams says that it is so': Google Search/Books/Ngrams are easy to misuse and draw several levels of unfounded conclusions from. Google (and other search engines use 'stemming' which sometimes cuts off suffixes. So you can't tell what is being counted. Google ngrams doesn't stem, but you still need to check the results. A comparison of equipment and equipments shows that the plural form does occur but at a much smaller frequency than the plural form. Even given this lesser frequency it looks like 'equipments' was more common in the past, in foreign works, and in technical works.

As a final note of relevance, as a native speaker, I find 'equipments' to sound really wrong. So if you're climbing up a mountain and have a bunch gear to put away, just 'pack your equipment', don't use the plural.

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Well, equipment's plural is rarely used. The form that I've heard the most is "piece of equipment."

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At first, a couple of general remarks on the count/non-count dichotomy in linguistics. (Incidentally, this dichotomy is language-specific).

What is taught in school about this distinction, whether English is your L1 or L2, is a gross oversimplification. It is done for pedagogical reasons.

However, in linguistics, it has been abandoned for various reasons. On the one hand, as Allan showed in his 1980 paper in “Language”, it is better to think of countability as a continuum, see the following examples (from the most countable to the least countable):

car, oak, cattle, scissors, mankind, admiration, equipment, Himalayas.

One the other hand, as Payne and Huddleston (2002) argue, “many nouns can be used with either a count or non-count interpretation”. They also add that since in some cases “the existence of paired count and non-count senses is entirely predictable, so that it is not necessary for a dictionary to list both”.

To make things even more complicated, some linguists have proposed up to eighteen types of concrete nouns only (e.g. Goddard 2009).

In natural languages, there is obviously a lot of variation. However, the trend is that the form “equipments” is not common. For example, I searched The Times and The Sunday Times, and “equipments” returned zero hits. Same with The Guardian. If you are an L2 learner of English, I’d recommend forgetting about the existence of that form altogether.

Some commenters suggested it might be used in cases when different types of equipment are meant. See, however, the following example from The Times:

Makro is also stronger in non-food items, such as stationery and office equipment.

Now, with The NY Times, things are a bit different.

Searching the archives from 1980 to present and manually going through the results, I got 28 hits only. Six of them were company names (Recognition Equipments Inc., Digital Equipments etc.) and one was obviously a typo:

According to Dr. P. L. Fan of the Council on Dental Materials, Instruments and Equipments, …. (1987) – see the original report here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1918680

Another sentence suspiciously looks like a typo, too:

In the face of such enmity, Pakistan's armed forces stand more and more vulnerable as old, mostly American equipments wears [sic!] out, with no ready replacements. (1980)

But:

That will include $800,000 a year in grants for the groups, $100,000 a year in sports equipments, and 15,000 tickets a year to Yankee home games. (2006)

Several ski equipments are presented. (2007)

The microphone was in place, and the synthesizer and other electronic equipments were turned on. (1984)

Now, if you search the archives of the NY Times for 1851-2008, things are a bit different. I got 9983 results, with the highest peak for 1960-1969 – 1524 results.

An important thing about those examples – it seems most of them are classified ads, e.g. “Candidates should have at least four years of maintenance experience on the above equipments” (1962).

Only the first five hits were from the other sections of the newspaper, four of them written by the same person, Burton Crane.

Oils, drugs, office equipments and a number of the high-price stocks known as … (1961)

Now about the OED examples. There are 30 occurrences in quotations (I excluded definitions).

one – 18th century

eleven – 19th century

seventeen – 20th century (most of them are used in engineering or military contexts)

one – 21th century

If you search the BNC, you can see that in British English the form “equipments” is mostly used by the military:

Total number of occurrences: 27

7 of those come from ABA Britain's defence dilemma. 1990.

6 come from JNM House of Commons Select Committee for Defence: meeting (Public/institutional). Recorded on 9 February 1994

3 come from JNN House of Commons Select Committee for Defence: meeting (Public/institutional). Recorded on 9 February 1994

etc.

With dictionaries, you need to remember one very important thing - they are a good place to start your research but you shouldn't base your answer solely on the OED (OED-thumping) or some other dictionary.

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I mentioned the OED citations not as an answer, but as a comment on rudra's claim that 'there is no such word as "equipments"'. –  Barrie England Jun 13 '12 at 17:43
    
@BarrieEngland, I see. I generally avoid statements like "There is no such thing as X in English". –  Alex B. Jun 13 '12 at 17:48
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Those who say 'there is no such word as . . .' should tell us what they mean by 'word'. –  Barrie England Jun 13 '12 at 17:56
    
@BarrieEngland, when I see someone saying such things, I usually interpret it as "there is no such word in my dialect." –  Alex B. Jun 13 '12 at 18:27

The Google Translator didn't throw any spell error while typing equipments. But here the site, which says there is no plural form for equipment .Refer here too, to know bit more, Finally it seems both acceptable.

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Try the OED, which gives plural senses and copious examples. Stop playing the “hunt the net” game. –  tchrist Jun 13 '12 at 11:52
    
Finally you take me there, Where i exactly want to go. OED is the standard one to look for. Thanks tchrist –  iDroid Jun 13 '12 at 11:55

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