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English isn't my mother tongue, and when we recently talked to a native speaker (during some company audit), he pointed out that the plural word "trainings" is actually wrong (he pointed that it is a very common mistake and was almost amused by it).

I couldn't understand why and wondered what the correct plural of "training" would be. Online Dictionaries/Thesaurus don't answer it, so it's probably another opinion-based statement. I haven't found a source to back it up, though.

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    It might be safer to just say 'training courses'. – Miles Oct 21 '16 at 13:34
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    Whether it is correct or not, I doubt that I am the only corporate-employee being frequently asked to verify that I have completed and kept current on all of my required trainings (in other words, web-based brain-washes to ensure I don't harass my co-workers or leak company secrets on facebook.) – cobaltduck Oct 21 '16 at 13:47
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    For me an s on training (because I am a translator from languages that do have a plural for it) is an immediate red flag. training courses, I'm will Miles. /Our company held ten training courses or sessions this year/. So, maybe in some geek (computing forums), it may be acceptable, it is not acceptable in most places where training is actually done or provided...It is not acceptable in formal register texts. – Lambie Oct 21 '16 at 14:04
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    Do not say; "The school gave me trainings in physics and chemistry." For that, use "training". If you were using "trainings" in this way, that would be why the native speaker said it was incorrect. – GEdgar Oct 21 '16 at 14:57
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    A 2006 movie used the pluralization of a gerund in the subtitle to mock its main character's poor grasp of English. "Training" is almost always used in an uncountable sense ("He needs more training in the language"); if you have a plural sense, use the word as an adjective modification a countable noun, like "course", "day", or "experience". – Malvolio Oct 21 '16 at 20:41
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Training is both countable and uncountable. Usually, referring to a process, it is uncountable and has no plural.

It is sometimes used to mean "a specific training event", and is then countable, and has the plural "trainings". The OED has examples of this use going back to 1578, with the plural recorded from 1598.

  • Actually the plural version has been more commonly used in recent years: books.google.com/ngrams/… – user66974 Oct 21 '16 at 11:58
  • @JOSH It might be more instructive to compare the usage of both forms. – Mick Oct 21 '16 at 12:14
  • @Mick - no, I am not saying that the plural form is more common than the singular one, but just that its usage has increased. And from your graph you can't see that. – user66974 Oct 21 '16 at 12:21
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    @Mick - Also the word "training" will include uses as a verb (e.g. "he is training me") rather than just as a noun (whether countable or uncountable). – AndyT Oct 21 '16 at 13:26
  • Context is everything and resistance [to that] is futile. "Our company provides on-site trainings to widget manufacturers":nix that. "Our company provides on-site training courses or sessions to widget manufacturers". Disembodied (uncontextualized) arguments about single words such as this word is silly. – Lambie Oct 21 '16 at 14:08
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Training is normally used as an uncountable noun by native English speakers, and in this form it doesn't take a plural. However, some dictionaries list it as being both countable and uncountable, with the caveat that the countable form is little used. Google Ngrams shows the relative frequencies for both forms:

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Interestingly, Google Ngrams indicates that usage of trainings is on the increase. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing how much this is influenced by native English speakers adopting the countable form.

enter image description here

The Cambridge Dictionary and Collins Dictionary indicate that it is uncountable. The Oxford Living Dictionaries indicates that it is a mass noun. Wiktionary mentions the plural form, but says that it is not often used. Other online dictionaries offer no opinion. No online dictionary that I can find provides an example of usage as a countable noun.

I don't think that I have heard a fellow native English speaker use the countable form. If I have, it would be only rarely. My own feeling is that you should avoid using the countable form if you ever have ambitions of being mistaken for a native English speaker.

Google Books Ngram Viewer

Cambridge Dictionary: Training

Collins Dictionary: Training

Oxford Living Dictionaries: Training

Wiktionary: Training

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    This is only half the answer. – Colin Fine Oct 21 '16 at 12:01
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    @ColinFine It's the half that I'm happy with. – Mick Oct 21 '16 at 12:03
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    If you don't choose to use the countable "training", fine. But answering as if it doesn't exist is doing a disservice to the questioner. – Colin Fine Oct 21 '16 at 12:50
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    @AndyT "Noun [U]" (thanks for the help) – Mick Oct 21 '16 at 13:33
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    GloWbE shows 372 instances of "trainings" from US sources, 176 from GB, 101 from Canada, 88 from Australia. Interestingly, it shows 170 from India, 201 from the Philippines, 317 from Kenya and 462 from Tanzania. So the word is apparently considerably more common in Asian and African Englishes than British, But it is clearly in use. And I am a native English speaker, and use it. – Colin Fine Oct 21 '16 at 13:46
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Using the plural of gerunds (that is a present participle used as a noun, and then pluralized) is only recently more common.

Gerunds are non-count nouns, but describe a process not the thing that is processing. There is a perceptible lexical gap of a noun for those things and to fill it there is semantic shift of X-ing to an individual object X-ed)

I was learning today (present participle)

Learning took place today (gerund)

What were your learnings today? (countable object)

As to usage, a newspaper editor or school teacher will mark this as terribly wrong because it sounds very grating on first hearing, like a foreignism. However it is becoming more common in business-speak. I would recommend not using it, but now you know how to recognize it when used:

'X-ings' = 'things X-ed'

Which is all to say that 'trainings' is the correct plural, but you probably want to avoid it and use 'training sessions' or 'skills we were trained for' depending on purpose.

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    While many gerunds are uncountable, there are lots of gerunds which are used as count nouns: findings, pickings, teachings, fixings, tidings, savings. And some of these have been around for centuries: savings since 1737, and Shakespeare used blessings, greetings and proceedings. – Peter Shor Oct 21 '16 at 13:44
  • @PeterShor hmm... yes. overgeneralization on my part. Anyway, that means the excrescent (to me) sounding 'learnings' and 'trainings' are in good company with many perfectly acceptable sounding words. – Mitch Oct 21 '16 at 14:27
  • Which is exactly why people learning English have trouble with this. – Peter Shor Oct 21 '16 at 14:55
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    @Phil: That may be true, but it's really not of any help explaining why trainings is unacceptable and teachings is a valid word, which was the OP's question. – Peter Shor Oct 21 '16 at 15:00
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    @PeterShor Maybe because the teaching of Buddhism and the teachings of Buddhism are two different things? I can't think of a rule or class of words that trainings fits. Would we say the trainings of Bela Karolyi? – Phil Sweet Oct 21 '16 at 15:37
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Although some treat training as an uncountable noun (that is, never used in the plural), the plural form trainings is in widespread use.

If you want to follow prescriptivism, you can use training sessions.

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    I didn't think I was a prescriptivist, but whereas I'm fine with Three teachings of a great philosopher, I'm certainly not keen on Three trainings of [with?] a great instructor. And although it doesn't necessarily count for much, even the Google Chrome spellchecker objects to my writing the plural in that last sentence. – FumbleFingers Oct 21 '16 at 11:47
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I agree with Mick that training is an uncountable noun. In the example given by Mr. Fine of a specific training event allowing training to become countable, I disagree. In the case of becoming countable, the portion being counted is the event. Therefor, it would be "there are multiple training events available at the pavilion" (or whatever). I see many cases where much effort is made to "fix" the plural when a simple rewording will eliminate the contentious context and allow an, arguably, better flow by using the standard form.

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    You disagree with what? With the fact that some people use the word in that way? If so, you are wrong. As I said to Mick, you are welcome to eschew the use, and even to advise against its use. But, to take your own words, "I see many cases where much effort is made" to avoid a perfectly clear and useful word and insist on an unnecessary circumlocution. – Colin Fine Oct 21 '16 at 13:54
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    That is a harsh response, my view. I'm sure you will disagree. My disagreement stands clearly. I disagree that the scenario you offered allows training to be pluralized by adding an "s". Creating words to allow curious plurals to be applied is not good writing, my view. – Reginald Steggles Oct 21 '16 at 14:28
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    What do you mean by “allows”? There is no governing body over the English language, and no one to dictate what is allowed and what is illegal. There is only established/conventional and unestablished/unconventional usages—plus of course the very large field that falls in between, being not quite common enough to be conventional, but not rare or nonce enough to be unconventional, either. Trainings is used by competent native speakers of English, is clear and unambiguous, and is in the process of being conventionalised. Creating unwieldy constructions to avoid simpler ones is not good writing. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 21 '16 at 14:46
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    @JanusBahsJacquet but 'trainings'? It just sounds so wrong, like throwing with your non-dominant hand, it's possible and may be more practical in certain situations, but it feels all sorts of wrong. – Mitch Oct 21 '16 at 15:19
  • @Mitch I'm with Colin here: I don’t find it wrong or even jarring at all. It’s a bit jargony and mostly something you’d expect to find in business speak, but it’s fairly natural and unwrong to my ear. I wouldn’t notice or balk at it if I saw it in writing (provided it was used in a way that makes sense). To me, it’s already quite conventionalised; to others, not at all. That’s what I meant by it being in the process of being conventionalised. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 21 '16 at 15:22

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