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I am using the word 'sediment' quite a lot for my research. I work in the field of river engineering and I always thought 'sediment' to be uncountable.

However, a colleague uses 'sediments' to mean different grain classes, e.g. instead of writing 'sand, silt, cobbles, and pebbles deposit in the river' he would write 'sediments deposit in the river'.

I believe this use is correct, but I also think that if one generally means 'material being transported in a river' should use 'sediment' singular, e.g. 'sediment is being transported in the river' and not 'sediments are being transported in the river.

Do you agree that in the first sentence the word 'sediment' includes all the possible grain classes that are transported in a river?

Thanks!

  • Yes, English has a long tradition of pluralizing mass nouns to emphasize different types of those nouns ("many kinds of fishes", "where the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates meet", and so on). So you'd pluralize sediments wherever you intentionally want to emphasize different kinds of sediments. So you could say either "sediment is being transported by the rive"* or "sediments are being transported by the river" depending on whether you want to emphasize that there are different types or not. – Dan Bron Jun 14 '17 at 10:30

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