From Orwell's essay:

"But apart from these, there are two well-known types of pest by whom every second-hand bookshop is haunted. "

Why is the singular used here? Why not the plural?

  • Pest here is a collective noun meaning the set of annoying persons. – deadrat Jul 27 '16 at 6:42
  • In the context above, either would be correct. To me, "types of pest" is a little stilted, but that was Orwell's style. – Hot Licks Jul 28 '16 at 11:47

What kind of person are you? We don't say, What type of people are you? Similarly, what type of ship has four masts? Don't be confused by the plural verb needed when Orwell introduces more than one type.

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I believe it is because he is referring to the individual type, the model of the entity (like a blueprint), not the group of them. In this example it is a pest, but it could be used just the same way with human, for example. Both plural and singular would be correct:

There are two types of human.

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  • No. Do you know who George Orwell is? – deadrat Jul 27 '16 at 7:30
  • I read Animal Farm when I was a kid and 1984 when I was a teenager. I don't even remember details anymore. But no I haven´t met him yet. I don't know the exact context of this sentence in his work, or didn't really care, because the question is about grammar, not Literature. Peace&Love. – Santi Pérez Jul 27 '16 at 8:46
  • And you're not likely to meet him, at least in this life. He died in 1950. My comment was directed to your plague comment. (The only disease that I know of that carries the epithet pest is rinderpest, a cattle plague from Africa.) The passage was from one of Orwell's essays, one about working in a bookshop. Nothing to do with any plague. – deadrat Jul 27 '16 at 8:56
  • My big mistake there, sorry, it is The Plague, not The Pest, as it is called in my country. I deleted my last line. The "I haven't met him yet" was sarcastic, as in I know him, not that much as to having met him; because you assumed I didn't know who Orwell was. I did, and I had read two of his books, maybe not enough. Your comment was scornful, not explanatory. – Santi Pérez Jul 28 '16 at 10:25

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