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Are the following sentences grammatically correct and have the same meaning?

  • "You can see it with naked eyes"
  • "You can see it with the naked eyes"

Let's say you are watching stars with your friends using binoculars. What I want to know is the following:

  • "You can see it with naked eye" is (1. correct, 2. incorrect, 3. not preferable)
  • "You can see it with naked eyes" (1. correct, 2. incorrect, 3. not preferable)
  • "You can see it with the naked eye" (1. correct, 2. incorrect, 3. not preferable)
  • "You can see it with the naked eyes" (1. correct, 2. incorrect, 3. not preferable)
  • Some of the above 4 sentences might be undesirable but have the same meaning (1. yes, 2. no)
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22

The idiom is the naked eye:

noun

(usually the naked eye)
Unassisted vision, without a telescope, microscope, or other device:
threadworm eggs are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye

ODO Emphasis added

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  • So, is "You can see it with naked eyes" incorrect? Or both are fine and completely exchangeable but "You can see it with the naked eyes" is preferable?
    – Maverick
    Jun 10 '15 at 19:57
  • You can see it "with the naked eye". (That's how it appears to "the naked eye")
    – Misti
    Jun 10 '15 at 20:04
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    @Maverick It's not exactly incorrect, but it's not idiomatic, either.
    – user867
    Jun 11 '15 at 3:26
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    @Maverick: "You can see it with naked eyes" sounds very strange to a native English speaker. But yes, it's gramatically correct. There are a lot of gramatically-correct sentences that one wouldn't really say. Jun 11 '15 at 10:12
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ScotM's answer is great. To address your clarified questions:

  • "You can see it with naked eye" is (2. incorrect)
  • "You can see it with naked eyes" (2. incorrect) - possibly acceptable in a poetic usage, but otherwise awkward
  • "You can see it with the naked eye" (1. correct)
  • "You can see it with the naked eyes" (2. incorrect)
  • Some of the above 4 sentences might be undesirable but have the same meaning (2. no)
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  • 2
    I'd distinguish between ungrammatical and unidiomatic: "with naked eye" - ungrammatical, "with naked eyes" - grammatical but unidiomatic, "with the naked eye" - grammatical and idiomatic, "with the naked eyes" grammatical if you're talking about specific naked eyes but unidiomatic. Jun 11 '15 at 5:17
  • Very nice, Peter.
    – Kiri
    Jun 11 '15 at 5:19
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The previous two answers are both correct, but I'd like to add that if I were using it in an informal setting, such as a science brochure for children, I'd say "You can see it with your naked eyes," keeping the pronouns consistent. "The" naked eye implies a more formal style, in which case I would forgo the "you" and say instead, "it can be seen with the naked eye" or "one can see it with the naked eye."

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The other answers are not wrong but don't offer much in the way of an explanation.

  • "With the naked eye" is the preferred form, because this is a fixed expression in English. Any variation will sound a little funny to an adult native speaker. (When speaking to children I endorse ZIMF's suggestion of "With your naked eyes.")

  • "With naked eyes" has nothing grammatically wrong with it, but is not what a native speaker would say.

  • "With naked eye" and "with the naked eyes" violate a grammar rule: naked eye is singular, so there should be a determiner between "with" and "naked"; conversely, naked eyes is plural, so there should not be a determiner in that position.

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    I think the last part of your explanation doesn't work: the definite determiner can equally well be used with a plural noun phrase as with a singular one. "With the naked eyes" seems syntactically correct to me, but it isn't idiomatic.
    – herisson
    Jun 11 '15 at 3:25
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    There is nothing ungrammatical about a singular noun phrase without a determiner, nor (especially!) about a plural one with a determiner. The definite article is used equally with singulars and plurals, and mass nouns which are normally singular take no indefinite determiners, appearing instead undetermined (cf. “with milk” or “with sight”). Even count nouns can idiomatically appear with no determiner; cf. “on bended knee”. Jun 11 '15 at 8:43

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