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Instances of "some stratagems": 1 , 2 , 3 , 4

Instances of "some stratagem": 1 , 2 , 3 , 4

Is "stratagem" plural noun itself? (like phenomena) If so, is it possible to use "s" to make it plural again? Which form of plural is correct for "stratagem"?

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  • Phenomenon is the singular of phenomena. Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 12:30

2 Answers 2

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Stratagem is an ordinary noun, not a mass-noun, and has a standard plural form of stratagems.

The reason that you see both "some stratagem" and "some stratagems" is because they mean different things. Imagine that there is a set of 10 possible strategems that will help to capture a flag. If I say

He used some stratagem to capture the flag.

This means that out of that collection of possible stratagems, one was selected, but we don't know which one.

If I say

He used some strategems to capture the flag.

This means that out of that collection of possible strategems, more than one was selected; we still don't know which ones, nor how many, just that more than one were selected.

Similarly, from one of your examples:

They had to use some strategem to deceive their agents in order to help us

This is talking about how "they" had to go through a certain amount of planning and plotting in order to successfully deceive someone. We don't know, or even care, exactly what they did; the key is that they had to make some amount of effort to come up with a stratagem ("a trick or plan for deceiving an enemy or for achieving a goal"[m-w.com]), but they were successful.

From another example:

Some stratagems can be practiced on broad audiences such as the entire staff or student body...

This is talking about a large collection of possible stratagems, and saying that there is a subset of them that are useful when working with a large group of people. (Conversely, some other stratagems are much more effective when dealing only with individuals.)

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(Disclaimer: descriptive of how I've heard it used, not an accepted definition)

I've seen stratagem used most frequently more like a tactic -- perhaps as a piece of an overall strategy. As such, it's generally used as a singular. I haven't found any definition which claims it to be plural, nor do any of your four examples seem to necessarily imply that it's plural.

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