This question has the same background as my previous one. I am struggling with countable/uncountable nouns. I am reviewing a document, containing the following sentences:

Cross-verification of softwares for ...

Sensitivities of A and B to the variation of C have been investigated.

My gut-feeling tells me neither software nor sensitivity should be used in plural here. But while software is simply uncountable, sensitivity is not. So I am struggling to find an explanation for this feeling.

Typically I'd say, that if we are talking about two different kinds of sensitivity (though I'd struggle to think of an example), then sensitivities is possible. But when it's just how sensitive A and B are to the variation of C, it's so to say one sensitivity type and therefore cannot be used in plural.

Am I right? Is there a way to determine it next time (they love using plural like this over here in my company) without asking on SE?

Note: I know how to help my colleague avoid "softwares" and also the motivation (uncountable noun). The question is about "sensitivities", and I keep the "softwares" sentence in to provide the context: People over here like using plurals a lot, and I often feel they are overdoing it. The problem for me is that I am afraid I can overdo it the other way round. I don't want to ask the document author to rephrase "sensitivities" unless it is really wrong.

  • 4
    Sensitivities is countable but software is not. Perhaps use "Cross-verification of software packages" to make it countable?
    – Ste
    Jul 5, 2016 at 11:17
  • @Ste: I realize the duplication with the software question. However my question is not about how to avoid "softwares". I only kept that sentence to illustrate the context :) I've updated the question accordingly, thank you.
    – texnic
    Jul 6, 2016 at 13:13

2 Answers 2


"Software" (in US English, at least) is never pluralized. One might say "software packages" as suggested by Ste.

"Sensitivity" may be pluralized in some cases. In

Sensitivities of A and B to the variation of C have been investigated.

the plural would be used if you are speaking of separate measurements of the sensitivity of A to C and B to C. But the singular would be used if you didn't really treat them as separate measurements.


Well, you're correct that 'software' is uncountable.

Go ahead and use "the sensitivity of A and B to C..."

One of the guidelines for using plural nouns in a group is if they share something. If the objects in a group share a common trait/item, then use the singular for that shared thing. In this case, A and B both have a sensitivity to the same thing (C), so you can use the singular form of 'sensitivity.'

The students greatly admire their teacher. (All the admiring students have the same teacher.)

If the items in a group have a common trait but it isn't actually shared, you would use the plural form of the shared item.

The students greatly admire their teachers. (The students are alike in their admiration of a teacher, but they have different teachers. Or possibly multiple shared teachers.)

I couldn't come up with an example of "sensitivities" on my own, so I turned to the Internet. In this case, a single person has a sensitivity to many disparate foods. And really, "food sensitivities" is probably the most common use of the plural.

It would know all my food sensitivities and alert me if a single bite had these substances in it. Read more at http://sentence.yourdictionary.com/sensitivities#CVU7ziKDUkclLaeO.99

You may want to re-write the sentence: "The sensitivity of both A and B to C..." Using quantifiers like 'each' or 'both' can help avoid ambiguity and make other grammar questions easier/moot.

  • 1
    You failed to explain when the plural of "sensitivity" might be used.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 5, 2016 at 11:33

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