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Should we say "local expenditure" or "local expenditures"?

I have seen both in academic papers:

A pure theory of local expenditures

and

The politics of local expenditure

I assume that both are correct. Can you explain why? Thanks.

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"Local expenditure" refers to spending in the abstract—the act of spending—whereas "local expenditures" refers to the actual acts of spending that have taken place.

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  • This is a very good answer but I am still confused because the expression the "average expenditure of" has a lot of occurrences in google, and most of the time these expenditures have been realized. They are not talking about the act of spending. – emeryville Nov 25 '15 at 1:24
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    @emeryville, 'expenditure', as ralph.m says, refers to the act of spending--whenever it took place or will take place. 'Expenditures', by way of contrast, refers to the amounts spent. See the examples of definition 1 at Oxford Dictionaries for 'expenditure' and the examples of definition 1.1 for 'expenditures'. – JEL Nov 25 '15 at 1:53
  • Thanks @JEL. I guess I get it. We say "He advised against an increase in public expenditures" if we refer to the amount spent (as in the example of definition 1.1) but "He advised against an increase in public expenditure" if we refer to the action of spending funds. Am I correct? – emeryville Nov 25 '15 at 2:38
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    That sounds as if you've got it, right. It's complicated by the possibility of "an expenditure" referring to one amount spent, etc. Depending on context, the singular or the plural may refer to either sense (an act or acts of spending vs. an amount or amounts spent). So, "advised against an increase in public expenditures" may refer to either amounts spent or acts of spending (spread across several public agencies, for example). The context should make it clear which sense is intended, although in poorly written examples, the context may not clarify that. – JEL Nov 25 '15 at 2:59
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    There is a similar issue with the use of "behaviour" v "behaviours" (in a school or workplace context, normally), and also "advice" v "advices" in a legal environment. The singular form is general and over-arching, while the plural normally relates to specific events or instances. – Cargill Nov 25 '15 at 5:53

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