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I'm writing a technical documentation which should describe in a short sentence that I'm trying to find all groups of files from a set of files where all files within a group share a common (but unspecific) name. I don't know which of the following sentences states this correctly (if any):

  1. I'm searching for files with same name.
  2. I'm searching for files with same names.
  3. I'm searching for files with the same name.
  4. I'm searching for files with the same names.

In my non-native English ears options 2 and 3 sound more correct than the others, but I'm not sure about it.

The closest comparison that I found on the web is this one:

having the same name
47,600 results on the web

having the same names
2,690 results on the web

However, "having the same names" sounds most strange to me anyway and this comparison doesn't cover all of my variants.

Which of the options that I listed above is/are the (most) correct one(s)?

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The first option is incorrect because of lack of properly placed articles. For the rest, explanation follows. Let there be file named "x."

The option 3 means you are looking for files that are also named "x." You can rewrite the option 3 as "I'm searching only for files with the same name as x."

Option 2 means you are searching a group of files that have identical names and you don't have any initial name to search for. When you search, you may find two files named x, three files named y and likewise. Option 2 can be rewritten as "I'm searching for files which have same names."

In option 4, you have three files: x, y and z that you are looking for. It means you have a target to look for and you'll be searching to look for the files that are named x, y and z.

Option 4 can be rewritten as "I'm searching for files that are named x, y or z."

  • Based on your explanation, option 2 is exactly what I want to express. Thanks a lot! – honk May 5 '16 at 11:40
  • I'd be cautious here - option 2, "files with same names", really doesn't sound right to me. A quick search threw this up, which explains why: english.stackexchange.com/questions/235076/… – Prof Yaffle May 5 '16 at 13:39
  • I'd also raise an eyebrow with option 3 meaning "are also named x". The same names could be "... as each other" or "... as a reference file"; if it's not clear, then the former is implicit to me ("two girls in our class had the same name", for example). – Prof Yaffle May 5 '16 at 13:42
  • @ProfYaffle frankly, your explanation for option 3 went over my head. Could you, if it's not too much trouble, express it in, you know, layman's terms? :) – vickyace May 5 '16 at 13:48
  • @vickyace I mean that I'm searching for files with the same name doesn't actually say ... as what. Your explanation suggests that it's "as the file named x"; my interpretation would be that, if it's not made clear, then it could equally (and perhaps more likely) be "as each other". So, the girls in the class example: "I'm looking for girls with the same name/birthday/hair colour" suggests "as one another" rather than "as some other girl in a completely different class" unless you state that - "the same hair colour as me". In this example, "me" is your reference point, so your file "x". – Prof Yaffle May 5 '16 at 13:56
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It all hinges on how many names you're looking for. If you're searching a set of files for those that all share a common name, then it's:

I'm searching for files with the same name

... because there're multiple files but only one name.

However, if you're searching a set of files for duplicate names - perhaps a set of four or five names that you're looking for - then it's:

I'm searching for files with the same names

... as you now have multiple files and multiple names. It does sound clumsy and imprecise, though, and I'd probably re-word to make it clearer.


You can test this by inserting "duplicate" instead of "the same" and seeing if that sounds better, e.g.

I'm searching for files which have a duplicate name

(note the article - "a duplicate name" - because there's only one)

vs

I'm searching for files which have duplicate names

("duplicate names" - plural)

  • Your answer helps me to better understand my wording problem and shows me that I didn't provide enough context. I therefore updated my question. – honk May 5 '16 at 11:29
  • If you're looking for multiple duplicate names then it's "files with the same names". For clarity, you could consider "searching for groups of files that share a common name" or similar, as that makes it clearer that there are multiple groups and that the common name is the defining factor. – Prof Yaffle May 5 '16 at 11:34

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