I read an article from the NYT, and it reads: Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said there were "numerous" dead.

I just wonder if 'numerous' can be used with dead. As I understand it, 'the dead' is used as an uncountable, but collective noun. How can this be used with numerous, which, as far as I know, should be used with plural and countable nouns such as "numerous kids"?

Please help. Thank you in advance.

  • The version I've just Googled reads "Belgian [PM] says 'we know there are many dead, many injured' ". This is certainly idiomatic, though the same problem you point out is present. One could explain it as a deletion of 'we know there are many dead people ...', or as a partial countification of the uncountable noun 'dead'. I'd avoid 'numerous dead' (this article uses scare-quotes to signal an unusual expression: "Explosions at Airport and Subway Leave 'Numerous' Dead in Brussels. Author: Denisa Miron"); these things are descriptivist and not prescriptivist, and thus usually idiosyncratic. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 26 '16 at 9:56
  • In the phrase "numerous dead" considere that it's treated syntactically as "numerous dead people" with the last word elided. This is perfectly sound English, for other that highly formal situations (where such elisions would be discouraged). The use of "numerous" vs "many" is reasonable, given that "numerous" better describes the number of victims in this incident -- "many" could imply a larger number. (But let's not devolve into the "how many is a few" mess just now.) – Hot Licks Mar 26 '16 at 12:41
  • Edwin Ashworth and Hot Licks, many thanks to you!! Now I got it :) It makes sense that what the sentence meant was 'numerous dead people.' – Luxembourg Mar 26 '16 at 12:48
  • But I wouldn't advocate using this technique willy-nilly (*There were numerous/many live.). And as I say, 'There are numerous dead' sounds far less idiomatic than 'There are many dead'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 26 '16 at 15:26

Here, "dead" is an abbreviation of "dead people," but regardless, it's certainly countable: you can't have a fractional number of dead things. Perhaps you're thinking of "death," which is an uncountable abstract concept (not to be confused with "deaths," a countable number of events).

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