I want to write the sentence:

People have now turned their attention toward...

But I am unsure if attention should be written as attentions.

I have looked up this sentence online and it seems that both are used.

For example:

"Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey sparked not only a revolt within the ... and urged the investigators to turn their attentions elsewhere." - https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/6/19/15768146/trump-fbi-comey-mueller, Dara Lind

"As Welsh politicians turn their attentions to the EU referendum, BBC Welsh Affairs editor Vaughan Roderick gives his view." - http://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36358272/eu-referendum-vaughan-roderick-s-view, BBC News

"Just as dieters must turn their attentions away from tempting but forbidden snacks in order to remain..." - Social Psychology, Second Edition: Handbook of Basic Principles by Arie W. Kruglanski, ‎E. Tory Higgins.

"With the problems of the Bowman report and the Brush Gang behind them, the colonists were able to turn their attentions to the day-to-day struggle of survival." - Bread and Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles by Lionel Rolfe, ‎Nigey Lennon

"They were constantly under pressure from the Syrian Hittites, and once more, the Assyrians were forced to turn their attentions to the west." - Monarchs, Peter Francis Kenny

"Still, for our understandings as mortals, and our own aesthetic sense, we ask them to turn their attentions to us and our ritual occasions" - The Flaming Circle, Robin Artisson

"few conferences and no journals which can provoke academics to turn their attentions to the new subject, so there was no unifying factor." - Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World by Noah Charney

and many many others, both formally and informally.

Can someone check which form is correct?

  • 2
    This is the 7th question you have asked here. All six of your previous questions have either been closed or put on hold. You need to indicate exactly what research you have done, including where on the Internet you looked up the word, what your source(s) said, and why you're not happy with what they said... Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 5:49
  • Add the dictionary definition of "attention" and provide an example where "... their attentions ...." is used or written, and I'll upvote the question. I'm very very, very surprised that you claim that both forms are used. In the meantime I have cast my vote to close this question for lack of research.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 5:54
  • @Mari-LouA Yes both forms are used, a simple google search with "this exact word or phrase" would confirm this, but the point of asking this question is because I suspect one of those is grammatically incorrect. But both are used in informal writing and everyday speech.
    – Fraïssé
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 14:53
  • @Mari-LouA Example: "The Hellenistic Far East: Archaeology, Language, and Identity in Greek Central Asia" By Rachel Mairs
    – Fraïssé
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 14:55
  • 2
    Your question is much better with the examples. But you could have found out that there is a plural form of the word by looking in the Oxford dictionary or the American Heritage Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 4:26

2 Answers 2


Attention is a mass noun.



[mass noun]

  1. Notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important.
    ‘he drew attention to three spelling mistakes’

    1.1 The mental faculty of considering or taking notice of someone or something.
    ‘he turned his attention to the educational system’

Mass nouns, from Wikipedia:

In linguistics, a mass noun, uncountable noun, or non-count noun is a noun with the syntactic property that any quantity of it is treated as an undifferentiated unit

Basically, what that means is that whether it's one person's attention or the whole world's, it's always attention.

The plural form, in my experience, is used when one person does multiple, different things for another. Consider this excerpt from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving:

Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated with content and good humor, round and jolly as the harvest moon. His hospitable attentions were brief, but expressive, being confined to a shake of the hand, a slap on the shoulder, a loud laugh, and a pressing invitation to “fall to, and help themselves.”

  • Well it's not being used as a mass noun by Washington Irving... And the OP has found instances of what look like count noun uses. Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 4:16

It seems when the plural form "attentions" is used in this context it indicates expressing one's friendliness towards people. There are also examples when this form is used to indicate unwelcome advances. So whether it is a good or a bad thing should be revealed either by context ( implicit usage ) or quality adjectives ( explicit usage ).

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