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  1. His work in research and teaching have been ...
  2. His works in research and teaching have been...
  3. His work in research and teaching has been ...

If I want to express many pieces of his work, not just one piece of work, which one of the above is correct or better?

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    Hi, kejma, and welcome to EL&U. Is he still teaching/doing research? Is it still benefiting you? – anongoodnurse Jan 5 '14 at 9:42
  • work is not seen as a countable in his works in research and teaching has been – virmaior Jan 5 '14 at 11:52
  • 1 is wrong. 2 is possible, but unusual, and probably not what you want. 3 is most likely what you want. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jan 5 '14 at 13:16
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Of the three you list:

His work in research and teaching has been ...

is the best formulation.

Perhaps:

His work and teaching have been ...

Work in academic context functions as a group noun that reflects all of his works as a single enterprise he has been engaged in, i.e. his lifework.

To say his works assesses each piece as separate and not a contiguous body. So unless his publishing is eclectic I would avoid it.

  • Please read the sentence completely before answering. – Gurpreet K Sekhon Jan 5 '14 at 12:24
  • @PreetieSekhon. I did so. Assuming the person he is lauding is an academic of some sort, the way to emphasis works is by saying work. – virmaior Jan 5 '14 at 13:42
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Work has been...

'Works of art' is a usage that is accepted, as is 'life, works, and legacy of Einstein' or the 'devil and all his works'but I do not think the same rule applies here.

Work in your sentence, is a used as collective noun where in it refers to his entire body of work in research and teaching and his overall contribution.

To refer to his 'works', and convey what you need to say, a better formation might be:

His contributions to research and teaching have been invaluable.

  • same rule does not apply here. Also, I would say 'legacy, work, and life of ... ' rather than 'life, works, and legacy.' Devil and all his works is plural for a different reason. – virmaior Jan 5 '14 at 11:54
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    'Life and works of' is an oft used expression and hence cited here, though I personally prefer the life and work myself! – Gurpreet K Sekhon Jan 5 '14 at 12:11
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The words "work" and "works" have a complicated plural status. The simple definition of work includes:

work — something produced by the exercise of creative talent or expenditure of creative effort : artistic production an early work by a major writer

You can refer to these in the plural:

These works of art are masterpieces!

Or you can refer to an entire body of work at the same time:

body of work — the total output of a writer or artist (or a substantial part of it); "Picasso's work can be divided into periods"

Note that "body of work" doesn't require "body of"; the example sentence in the dictionary linked simply uses "Picasso's work".

This usage, however, is not considered plural:

Picasso's work is extremely influential.

But if you used the plural "works" you could still say:

Picasso's works are extremely influential.

These two sentences have roughly the same meaning.


To return to your actual question:

  1. His work in research and teaching have been ...

  2. His works in research and teaching have been...

  3. His work in research and teaching has been ...

We can trim the sentence down to make it easier to read:

  1. His work have been influential.

  2. His works have been influential.

  3. His work has been influential.

Option (1) is incorrect because this usage of "work" would refer to the "body of work" and is considered singular.

Option (2) is grammatically correct and uses "works" to refer to multiple works as noted by the definition quoted earlier: "something produced by the exercise of creative talent or expenditure of creative effort."

Option (3) is grammatically correct and uses "work" to mean "body of work" and refers to the same set of works as option (2).

Therefore, (1) is wrong and (2) and (3) mean roughly the same thing.

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