1

Take for example the word "liquid", which can be both uncountable and countable.

Should it be -

Types of liquid (There are many different types of liquid.) or Types of liquids? (There are many different types of liquids.)

2
  • Please provide more context. Similar threads, Why is liquid a countable noun? and When can you pluralize uncountable nouns?
    – Kyle
    Jan 8 '16 at 13:47
  • When a noun is countable, it seems more natural and less stilted to me to use the plural form when following the phrase "Type of". An example would be "There are four different types of cars in this garage", as opposed to "There are four different types of car in this garage". However, since the word "liquid" can be either countable or uncountable, I am not sure if the singular or plural form would be more appropriate in such a construction.
    – MarkM89
    Jan 8 '16 at 14:03
1

Substitute a more familiar uncountable noun - coffee.

It is natural and idiomatic to say that 'there are many types of coffee.'

It is baffling (if not nonsensical) to say 'there are many types of coffees.'

Similarly, in an interrogative construction you would not usually want or need to make coffee (or 'liquid') plural.

Which type of coffee do you prefer? (answer - name one type of coffee).

Which types of coffee do you prefer? (answer - name two or more more types of coffee).

2
  • Is there any reason why the plural would be ungrammatical besides the fact that it does not sound natural? Are there any established grammatical rules to back the use of the singular instead of going with the reasoning of it just sounding "right"?
    – MarkM89
    Jan 9 '16 at 12:23
  • @MarkM89 - Clarity. The fact that it does not break any 'rules' does not mean that it is good English. Can you give a clear example of when you might need to use my 'baffling/nonsensical' construction ?
    – Dan
    Jan 9 '16 at 13:47
-1

Yes. It would mean that you were talking about something you would categorize as "liquids" and their specific types. As such, "types of liquids" doesn't quite mean the same thing as "types of liquid."

Example:

After surgery, a patient's diet must restricted to clear liquids. We categorize liquids as clear liquids and opaque liquids. The two types of liquids are clear and opaque.

4
  • "Types of liquids" doesn't quite mean the same thing as "types of liquid." The example you gave does not appear to distinguish between them, but rather reinforce that they do mean the same thing. Do you have another example?
    – WBT
    Jan 8 '16 at 14:15
  • Does that mean that given that there is a lack of context (having not specified any particular group of liquids) in the general statement of "There are many different types of liquid(s)", the singular form of liquid is the more appropriate one? If not, could I say that "we have many different types of liquids in our laboratory" without categorizing and specifying any single type?
    – MarkM89
    Jan 8 '16 at 14:24
  • @MarkM89 : "We have many different types of liquids in our laboratory." This sentence of yours would mean that you have many different types of category of liquid, or kind of liquid. It doesn't mean that you have many different types of liquid. That is the nuanced difference. Jan 8 '16 at 14:57
  • @Benjamin Harman Thank you. I see what you mean. However, does that not mean that "types of liquid" is never truly accurate, considering that we can always subdivide any specific liquid into further categories, eg. hydrogen peroxide into diluted and concentrated hydrogen peroxide, and never run out of such arbitrary divisions? Edit: Realized that hydrogen peroxide might not be considered a category as it is not an adjective modifying the noun liquid.
    – MarkM89
    Jan 8 '16 at 15:23
-1

"Type" is a countable noun and can be pluralized with the addition of s.
Sometimes, "type of" is implied, such as in Benjamin Harman's example "After surgery, a patient's diet must restricted to clear liquids." See Andrew Leach ♦'s comment here: "some non-count nouns can be counted when there are different types or specific instances of the stuff involved..."

If you're using "type" as the countable applying to an uncountable noun, the uncountable would not take a plural form. For example, "We have two types of wine: red and white" sounds a lot more natural than saying "...wines..." unless the speaker is [representing] e.g. a vineyard with several types of red wine and several types of white wine. In the last "e.g." phrase there, I'm also confident of my use of "wine" rather than "wines" with "type" taking the s.

3
  • Given that "some non-count nouns can be counted when there are different types...of the stuff involved", is not the word liquid in "there are many different types of liquid" a count noun, considering that the sentence explicitly states that there are different types of liquid(s) involved? Whether or not this is true however, does not answer my question as a count-noun is not necessarily in its plural form, and what now determines if the singular or plural form should be used is the phrase "types of", hence my question of whether a noun following "types of" is necessarily plural or otherwise.
    – MarkM89
    Jan 8 '16 at 14:40
  • Thank you for your answer. Barring the possibility that "the speaker is [representing] e.g. a vineyard with several types of red wine and several types of white wine" (which is of sound logic to me), can the statement "we have two types of wines" ever be considered grammatical (perhaps due to regional differences)? Or is it strictly incorrect (or at least the general consensus of it being so) to use the plural form of the noun when following "types of"?
    – MarkM89
    Jan 8 '16 at 15:01
  • I think "we have two types of wines" would be grammatically incorrect, but unambiguously successful in conveying the intended meaning, which is the purpose of using the language. xkcd.com/1576
    – WBT
    Jan 8 '16 at 17:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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