I'm having a discussion on whether the word flotsam is used only in a singular context or if it can be used as a plural. Can you help me which sentence is grammatically correct? Instinctively the first sounds better to me, however I cannot explain why. Do they have a different meaning?

Marine flotsam includes wood, algae and plastic.


Marine flotsam include wood, algae and plastic.

  • 6
    Flotsam is very definitely a mass noun, so it and the verb should be singular. Jun 27, 2014 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


According to the Oxford Dictionary Online, both flotsam and the related jetsam are mass nouns—they refer not to discrete items but to something that's not typically regarded as countable. Thus, both these words are always used with a singular verb; they have no plural forms.

  • 1
    It's the difference between "stuff" and "things". Flotsam is "stuff". The logs you may recover near shore are "things", but together they make "stuff".
    – bye
    Jun 27, 2014 at 18:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.