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Is the following sentence correct?

There is a woods near our house.

(I am talking about one woods, but it is a bit awkward to use "a" before "woods". Hence I am not sure about this.)

  • Only for some speakers of American English. In the U.K., there would be a wood near your house. I (a native speaker of American English) would say "there are some woods near our house" even if there is only one woods. – Peter Shor Oct 15 '13 at 12:46
  • Or There are some woods (but rarely. A wood is definitely better in the UK.) – Andrew Leach Oct 15 '13 at 12:48
  • @Andrew: in my dialect of American English, it's woods (plural). Wood is a material you make tables out of. – Peter Shor Oct 15 '13 at 12:48
  • @Andrew Leach Not sure I entirely agree with you about UK usage. One might say 'I live near a wood'. But let's say the forestation was a bit ill-defined and all over the place (as it is near us) we would, and do, say we live near woods. Or 'we live near some woods'. In Norfolk they will often call a small wood 'a plantun'. It isn't what we normally think of as a plantation such as a 'rubber plantation' or 'palm-oil plantation' where trees are cultivated, but just a small defined area of tree-growth. – WS2 Oct 15 '13 at 17:00
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    Some formerly plural nouns have been definitively made singular. I don't believe anybody will object to a headquarters, a barracks, a shambles. This hasn't happened to a woods yet, except for some speakers of American English. – Peter Shor Oct 15 '13 at 18:22
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[This answer relates solely to British English. I'm not sure whether wood is used in this sense in American English.]

Chambers defines this meaning of wood as follows:

wood noun
3. (also woods) an expanse of growing trees.

showing that it can be used as singular or plural.

We would not say:

There is a woods near our house.

You could say:

There is a wood near our house.
There is a small wood near our house.
There are some woods near our house.
(This doesn't necessarily imply multiple discrete areas of woodland, but could mean the same as "a wood".)

The terminology is imprecise, but would depend, for example, on whether you are talking about :

  1. a single area of trees, completely separate from any other areas of trees, for example, a group of trees in an urban or barren area; or
  2. an area of trees on the edge of the countryside, which may merge into a larger area of woodland.

In case 1., you may well call it a wood, but in case 2., some woods would be a better description.

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To summarise what others have already said in comments:

  • In UK English, woods is usually a mass noun (There are (some) woods nearby). It also exists in the singular in this sense: (There is a wood nearby).
  • For most Americans a wood is not used in this sense. Some Americans will say There is a woods nearby, but others say There are (some) woods nearby. I don't know if this is a regional or a personal difference.
  • It gets trickier when there's an adjective. Although I can find both of these constructions in Google books, I wouldn't say a small woods (because it's plural), or some small woods (because mass nouns don't work that way; you can't say some small rice either). I'd say a small stretch of woods or a large expanse of woods. – Peter Shor Oct 15 '13 at 13:12
  • @Peter Shor How do you regard 'The contents is one small bun'? – Edwin Ashworth Jan 14 '15 at 17:52
  • I think "the contents" should be plural. But you can easily find examples on the web where it's singular. – Peter Shor Jan 14 '15 at 20:30
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In US English, the term woods means

an area of land covered with a thick growth of trees: Shaded from the sun, the woods were cool and quiet.

While the term is designated as a plural noun, it generally is treated as logically singular (but only when referring to a forested area, as opposed to a collection of several species of wood).

There are numerous locations in the US which include the term woods in its name

  • Muir Woods
  • Bretton Woods
  • Bethel Woods
  • Hendy Woods

The use of the singular form wood to mean a forested area is rare in US usage. For example, this ngram shows a marked dominance of the phrase into the woods over into the wood, and a quick check of the latter phrase indicates that it is usually referring to a woodworking project rather than a country walk.

While a walk in the woods would probably be more common (and perhaps more euphonic, at least to American ears), there is nothing wrong with a walk in a woods. And your example, there is a woods near our house is perfectly fine in Cambridge Massachusetts, but not in Cambridge, UK.

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