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Should I use the word gas as singular or plural if I mentioned different kind of gases before but I still want to refer to the total amount of gas, not the types of gases.

Some greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide or water vapor are natural gases which exist in the atmosphere already. Nevertheless, when we produce too much/many greenhouse gas/gases, it/they trap the solar heat rays and prevent them from escaping from the Earth's atmosphere and surface.

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  • This would be a better question on the English site, sending it there. – Neil Fein Jan 16 '17 at 18:25
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"Too much greenhouse gas" refers to the quantity of greenhouse gas produced. This is generally considered the problem with greenhouse gases and is likely to be what you mean.

"Too many greenhouse gases" refers to the number of different gases produced, and since this is not usually a problem is unlikely to be what you mean.

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    Thanks. I feel the same but I would like to ask if using the same subject as plural just after of that used as a singular contradicts in terms of grammar when you read it as whole writing. – Mrt Jan 16 '17 at 18:39
  • No, because the first sentence is talking about different kinds of gas, and the second about quantities of gas. – DJClayworth Jan 16 '17 at 19:23
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EDIT: ! I believe you should refer to multiple greenhouse gases however you need to also refer to the entire volume of gas.

Nevertheless, when we produce -too great a volume of- greenhouse gases, -it traps the solar heat rays and prevent them from escaping from the Earth's atmosphere and surface.

Perhaps using 'gas' would work grammatically, but emphasizing that that you are talking about many individual gases doesn't have any downsides and I believe follows the general practice.

Another example might be "heavy metal". [editted: see comment, thanks DJClayworth] {I have removed some poor grammar I used here}

I'd suggest googling around and looking for uses of Inert Gas in a context that means a volume of mixed inert gases.. I don't think it works that way.

I think they are always refered to as a collection of distinct gases as below.

Inert gas From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An inert gas is a gas which does not undergo chemical reactions under a set of given conditions. The noble gases often do not react with many substances.1 Inert gases are used generally to avoid unwanted chemical reactions degrading a sample. These undesirable chemical reactions are often oxidation and hydrolysis reactions with the oxygen and moisture in air. The term inert gas is context-dependent because several of the noble gases can be made to react under certain conditions.

Purified argon and nitrogen gases are most commonly used as inert gases due to their high natural abundance (78% N2, 1% Ar in air) and low relative cost.

Unlike noble gases, an inert gas is not necessarily elemental and is often a compound gas. Like the noble gases the tendency for non-reactivity is due to the valence, the outermost electron shell, being complete in all the inert gases.2 This is a tendency, not a rule, as noble gases and other "inert" gases can react to form compounds.

Here we see science referring to heavy metals, repeatedly, not to the risk of heavy metal in our water.

The young are more prone to the toxic effects of heavy metals, as the rapidly developing body systems in the fetus, infants and young children are far more sensitive. Childhood exposure to some metals can result in learning difficulties, memory impairment, damage to the nervous system, and behavioural problems such as aggressiveness and hyperactivity. At higher doses, heavy metals can cause irreversible brain damage. Children may receive higher doses of metals from food than adults, since they consume more food for their body weight than adults.

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    "We say there are too many heavy metals in our drinking water". We are almost always concerned about overall quantity, not the number of different kinds, or heavy metals, in which case we should say "there is too much heavy metal in the water". We do refer to 'heavy metals', but as soon as we are comparing quantities it becomes singular. – DJClayworth Jan 16 '17 at 19:37
  • @DJClayworth I agree with your grammar assessment and my wording was indeed incorrect. I needed another word in there. The except above uses 'doses' Children may receive higher doses of metals from food than adults, – Tom22 Jan 16 '17 at 19:40
  • @Mrt crap, I think I'm wrong about 'they trap' .. The subject is "the volume" the way I put it .. so it should have been 'it traps" sigh. – Tom22 Jan 16 '17 at 20:02
  • Last time I jump in a grammar question without letting it sit for a while – Tom22 Jan 16 '17 at 20:03
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I, too, believe you should use gases, as there are many greenhouse gases, e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride. But you also need to address the quantities of these gases, which in physics/chemistry are the number of moles of each gas. I suggest something along the lines of the following:

Some greenhouse gases such as carbon-monoxide and water vapor are natural gases which exist in the atmosphere already. Nevertheless, when we produce too many moles of greenhouse gases -- especially those with high global warming potentials (combination of absorptive properties and atmospheric lifetime for each gas) -- these gases trap the solar heat rays and prevent them from escaping from the Earth's atmosphere and surface.

Note that carbon dioxide and methane (at least) are naturally occurring gases. It's all about increases in atmospheric concentrations/loading driven by human activities.

Addendum: Based on the comments below, I suggest the following which is less technical and stays closer to your original example:

Some greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are natural gases which exist in the atmosphere already. Nevertheless, when we produce too much of these and other potent greenhouse gases through human activities, these gases trap the solar heat rays and prevent them from escaping from the Earth's atmosphere and surface.

  • Way too technical, especially for a general audience (which this appears to be aimed at); "too much of these gases" is better. – Peter Shor Jan 16 '17 at 22:19
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    @PeterShor "too much" with "these" does work well. 'these' lets the verb more naturaly refer to the group too. – Tom22 Jan 16 '17 at 22:29
  • @PeterShor these gases refers back to carbon monoxide and water vapor. They are not the main culprits. The OP needs to rework the entire paragraph for it not to be misleading. – Richard Kayser Jan 16 '17 at 22:48
  • The last part is helpful. Why don't you edit out the moles, etc.? – aparente001 Jan 20 '17 at 5:22
  • @aparente001 I'll stand pat with addendum. The technical problem with the original example was the choice of carbon monoxide and water vapor in the opening sentence. My changes in the first sentence of the addendum address that. The changes in the second sentence address the ELU aspect, such as it is. Thanks. – Richard Kayser Jan 20 '17 at 5:30

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