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I was just reading the wikipedia page on the M3U playlist format when I noticed the second sentence seemed somehow wrong to my ears. Uses just seems wrong here.

It originally was designed for audio files, such as MP3, but various software now uses it to play video file lists.

But then I thought about what the correct alternative would be and I came up with:

It originally was designed for audio files, such as MP3, but various software now use it to play video file lists.

It originally was designed for audio files, such as MP3, but various softwares now use it to play video file lists.

Both these sentences again sound wrong to my ears trained by almost 22 years of listening to English now. The only good alternative I could come up was to avoid this issue altogether is this:

It originally was designed for audio files, such as MP3, but various software media managers now use it to play video file lists.

The issue, I think, boils down to whether softwares is a correct plural form for software.

marked as duplicate by Kris, Mitch, 200_success, kiamlaluno, Hugo Nov 29 '14 at 20:35

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  • Have you searched through previous posts? Just look at the "RELATED" box on the lower right of this page. – Kris Nov 29 '14 at 8:30
  • "It originally was designed for audio files, such as MP3, but various applications now use it to play video file lists." – Kris Nov 29 '14 at 8:34
  • I come across people mistakenly using "softwares" reasonably often. I sometimes see it being used by Japanese people, so it's not a mistake only made by people from the subcontinent. – Andrew Grimm Nov 29 '14 at 12:53
  • Saying "softwares" fairly clearly identifies the speaker as someone for whom English is not their first language. However, one should avoid phrases such as "but various software now use(s) it". The phrase "but various software media managers now use it" is an acceptable replacement, though in that case one might just as well leave out "software" entirely. – Hot Licks Nov 29 '14 at 17:38
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Software is called a "non-countable" ("non-count") noun, similar to, say, furniture. As such, it is treated as a singular:

Your furniture is in transit.

The software is available on our website.

If your sentence requires you to indicate, without a doubt, you are talking plural, use the non-count noun as an adjective and attach it to a countable noun:

Your three furniture requisitions have been processed.

We have three software applications that may meet your requirements.

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    Yes, I read both of your email messages. – Greg Bacon Nov 29 '14 at 14:36
  • Not all noncount usages take a singular verb. / Did you know that 'furniture' has been countified? The furnitures of 18th Century France and 19th Century Britain is acceptable. The question here is whether 'software' has also been countified, and Erik Kowal addresses this question, showing relevant research rather than unsupported claims. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 30 '17 at 1:21
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For every plausible corpus of English that I used it on, the Google Ngram tool showed a zero prevalence level for softwares as opposed to software.

However, this doesn't tell the whole story: Ngram's data is derived purely from books (a medium whose publication schedules automatically guarantee a certain degree of time lag with respect to current usage), whereas most people's exposure to discussions and descriptions of software and related matters occurs via the Web (in its various manifestations) and periodicals. In other words, purely book-based corpuses are likely to be significantly unrepresentative of the language used in connection with fast-evolving technologies.

A somewhat related fact is that a considerable amount of software development takes place in countries where English is not the primary language.

On the basis of my experience of visiting websites like giveawayoftheday.com (a venue for software developers from across the globe to test the response to their new products among potential users) — and Wikipedia too, for that matter — a great many non-native speakers of English are unaware of the usage of -ware as an invariant suffix that designates something as a type of commodity. I think they therefore have no sense that pluralizing software is non-standard for native speakers of English.

This may seem like a trivial issue, but given the amount of software development by entities in non-English-speaking countries that are nevertheless targeting markets where English is the native language, I think it is inevitable that softwares will eventually become a de facto standard form in parallel with software, but with a slightly different meaning that is more or less equivalent to programs.

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    Good comment. Not an answer. – Kris Nov 29 '14 at 8:32
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    @Kris - It seems incredible, but you must have missed my statements that "For every plausible corpus of English that I used it on, the Google Ngram tool showed a zero prevalence level for softwares as opposed to software", and "...pluralizing software is non-standard for native speakers of English". That fully answers the OP's question, namely "The issue [...] boils down to whether "softwares" is a correct plural form for "software". – Erik Kowal Nov 29 '14 at 9:02
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Software is an uncountable noun and therefore has no plural, so "software now uses" is correct.

I think combining it with "various" causes a problem.

I suspect "various" should only be used with plural count nouns.

So none of the suggested sentences are correct.

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