I'd like to know why this sentence uses "needs" instead of "need":

Even some very popular software sometimes needs a year or two of testing,

I think the subject is plural because it says some is used.

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Drew, anongoodnurse, Kris, oerkelens Dec 18 '14 at 8:08

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Software isn't necessarily plural. A single software product is singular, and can be used in a sentence that way. – Oldcat Dec 18 '14 at 1:25
  • 2
    Whyever would you imagine that the determiner some were somehow restricted to plural nouns? That makes no sense: Do you have some rice? Do you want some water? Some air might help. So would some studying. Some further research is definitely called for here. – tchrist Dec 18 '14 at 2:23
  • @tchrist: The first two answers here don't seem to find it that obvious (and so far as I can make out, this isn't even a matter of German-speaking posters constantly referring to softwares). – FumbleFingers Dec 18 '14 at 2:28
  • possible duplicate of Is "software" singular or plural? Can "softwares" be used instead? – Kris Dec 18 '14 at 6:54

The word "some", when used with a noun whose singular and plural forms are identical, can subtly change its meaning. It may very well fall to the verb to sort out the meaning. Consider these two sentences:

"Some of the deer need training."

"Some of the deer needs training."

Granted, the second form is a tad ridiculous, but valid nonetheless. In the case described above, the choice of "need" vs "needs" affects the number of units of software being discussed. "Some popular software need" indicates software in the plural and thus the word "some" is used in the sense of "a subset of all softwares". The form "some popular software needs" would appear to be using "some" in the sense of "an example of the type", as in the phrase "some enchanted evening."

There is, however, a third way that "some" is used, and that is in the sense of "a portion of a contiguous, homogenous substance." If we say "some water needs freezing" we don't mean an example of the type 'water'" but a quantity of water (which is singular). I've always had the impression that we tend to use the word "software" the same way. Just as the plural for water is "waters", I like the notion that the true plural for software is "softwares" (which sounds archaic and my spell checker hates). But if the phrase "some software" refers to software in the same sense that "some water" refers to water, then I suppose the correct usage would be "Even some very popular software sometimes needs a year or two of testing."


Software is never plural. It is non-countable. Some of it needs testing. Some types of software need extensive testing. All programs need some type of testiing.

  • 1
    Yes, but it might have been better to stick to Software is never plural. Some software is better than other software, but all software is non-countable. It just complicates things when you introduce types of software and programs, which are countable and can therefore be used with the plural verb form. – FumbleFingers Dec 18 '14 at 2:25

Contrary to what some of the previous answers state/d so boldly, countification of the normally non-count noun software may well be acceptable.

At least according to Arnold Zwicky [2011]:

software development

The initial find, by Megan O’Neil and me a little while ago, while we were looking for something totally different:

Besides VirtualBox, there are in fact quite a number of virtualization software in the market such as VMware Workstation, Microsoft’s Windows Virtual PC (for Win7) and Virtual PC 2007 (for Vista or XP).

In the market, there are a lot of software that claims itself capable of boosting the PC performance. (link)

It takes several steps to get to these two usages for software.

The background: the lexeme SOFTWARE is a M (often called “mass”, or sometimes “uncountable”, “non-countable”, or “noun-count”) noun; in most uses — note the qualification — it is SG-only (*softwares), takes the determiners characteristic of M nouns (much software, for instance), and rejects the determiners characteristic of C (often called “count(able)”) nouns (*many software, *a software).

But things are more complicated than that. There are schemes for using C nouns as M and M nouns as C (some discussion in the section on C~M conversions here). In particular, “functional collective” M nouns like furniture, mail, luggage, change, jewelry, and ammunition (discussion here) are subject to “countification”, conversion to C nouns denoting individuals in the collectivity. (Discussion of such countifications — well-attested for the lexemes E-MAIL and SPAM, now reported for PORN, PORNO, and SLANG — here. I have since added FOLKLORE to this list, and, in a later posting, HARDWARE in the both the sexual and the computer sense, and, in still a later posting, EXPRESSIVE MATERIAL.)

The virtue of individuating countification is that it provides a way of referring to a collectivity as a whole (via the M noun) and to the individuals in the collectivity (via the C noun, meaning roughly ‘a piece of': a spam ‘a piece of spam’, porns ‘pieces of porn’).

Countifying SOFTWARE this way gives us things like a software ‘a piece of software’ and softwares ‘pieces of software’. Huge number of attestations of these....

Even so, 'Even some very popular software sometimes need a year or two of testing', with a posited zero plural, sounds outlandish, contrived ... I'd say unacceptable.

Acceptable sentences are:

'Even some very popular software needs a year or two of testing.'

'Even some very popular softwares need a year or two of testing.'

(It's general reference that the quantifier 'some' can be used with non-count and plural count nouns.)


You can't use "needs" in this sentence. "Needs" is a third person singular verb - it can't be applied to software when used as a plural. The word to use is "need"

It's the same thing as

"He needs training" versus "Adam and Jill need training".

The rule applies to nouns with identical plural and singular forms (like software) too.

For instance,

"A deer over there needs training " versus "All the deer need training".

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