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When one says I was washing my hair, is it singular or plural? What is the singular for hair?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

This seems to be one of those plural issues where a different plural is used when referring to the large uncountable group. "I found 3 gray hairs this morning" is proper but so is "I washed my hair this morning".

In the second case, your entire head covered with individuals hairs is treated as a single object or group which is why it is referred to in a singular form.

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The word hair in some cases is a collective noun, and in other cases is not a collective noun.

As reported from the NOAD, the meaning of the word is:

  1. Any of the fine threadlike strands growing from the skin of humans, mammals, and some other animals.
  2. Such strands collectively, especially those growing on a person's head.

In most of the phrases, the word used is hair; in some cases is hairs (to split hairs).

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I think both hair and hairs are right because the sentence "I pulled out some hairs" would be right and "She has a head full of hair" works too, so I think both hair and hairs work that it just depends on the context clues of the sentence.

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You are right, but this answer doesn't add anything to what is already here. –  Matt Эллен Mar 23 '12 at 9:58
    
I think it is worth noting that the sentence "washing my hairs" could be correct, but would imply that each hair was being washed individually. Such level of detail would be unusual, but in cases where someone's hairs were being washed individually (perhaps the person was nearly bald, and thus only had a few dozen hairs scattered about the head), the plural form of "hairs" would be appropriate. –  supercat Oct 10 at 16:55

The noun hair is a singular, plural, or collective noun. It all depends on the context of the sentence.

In your sentence,

I was washing my hair.

the noun hair is the collective. It is also the case in:

I have my hair cut.
She brushed her long red hair.

It is singular in following sentences.

I found a hair in my soup.
I just pulled out one of your white hair

It is plural in the following sentences.

There are dog hairs on the sofa.
I lost a lot of hairs after the operation.

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5  
Some of these sound odd. "I just pull out one of your white hair" -> "I just pulled out one of your white hairs". "There are dog hairs on the sofa" -> "There is dog hair on the sofa". "I drop a lot of hairs after operation" -> "I lost a lot of hair after the operation". –  Tester101 Jan 25 '11 at 17:57
    
Tester101-thank for corrections. –  Mr.X Jan 26 '11 at 3:14
1  
"I just pull out one of your white hair" still needs to be changed. –  amcnabb Mar 22 '12 at 21:49
    
The the word "hair" in the sentence "I just pulled out one of your white hair" needs to be plural, because the phrase "one of" implies that its object is a collection of a discrete things. If you want to use singular "hair", the sentence should be changed to either "I pulled out a strand of your white hair" or "I pulled out some strands of your white hair". –  supercat Oct 10 at 16:50

Neither, it is collective, meaning that 'hair' in this context refers to all your hair.

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protected by Will Hunting Mar 22 '12 at 21:40

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