I am a Korean English teacher. I am teaching about Monet. But I have encountered a grammatically strange expression like the following first sentence. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1551703/Cataracts-the-key-to-Monets-blurry-style.html Monet suffered from cataracts for much of his later life. During that time, he produced some of his most characteristic work.

During that time, he produced some of his most characteristic works.

I think that in the sentence, the word “work” must be changed into “works.” Am I wrong or is the original incorrect? Could you please explain which is correct or incorrect?

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    His most renowned work is..... Some of his most characteristic works are... – Centaurus Oct 15 '18 at 13:56
  • So you mean the original on the website is incorrect, right? – Suwon Kim Oct 15 '18 at 13:59
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    My reading of this can go either way, in American usage; the Telegraph is a British paper, however, and will follow British usage. In American usage, Monet's works would refer to his individual paintings as a collective, while Monet's work would refer to his entire corpus (or a definable subset thereof) as a single entity. (I have a feeling that I'm not explaining this adequately, but...) – Jeff Zeitlin Oct 15 '18 at 14:03
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    Both "work" and "works" are idiomatic in this context, however they carry slightly different senses. "Work" would refer to Monet's work in general. e.g. "The artist did some of his most important work in his early life, when he produced the following works:..." – WS2 Oct 15 '18 at 14:04
  • @JeffZeitlin You have explained it perfectly, but the position is absolutely no different in Britain. What the Telegraph is saying is that Monet produced some of his most characteristic work. They could almost equally have said "works", but had they done so they would have been referring to individual paintings. – WS2 Oct 15 '18 at 14:07

Partially, it's a difference in British vs. American English conventions; if you're used to American conventions that phrase sounds odd. For example "news about sporting events" is referred to as "Sports" on American news, but only "Sport" on British ones.

Technically it is correct, just uncommon: WORK

noun: the total output of a writer or artist (or a substantial part of it)
“Picasso's work can be divided into periods”
Synonyms: body of work, oeuvre
  • If you were an English teacher, which would you choose to teach your students? I would respect your choice. because I like a general usage. – Suwon Kim Oct 15 '18 at 14:41
  • Why do you think it’s uncommon? I’m pretty sure it’s just correct, period (including in American English, and not even technically). – Ry- Oct 15 '18 at 16:20
  • @Ry - Only because I had to go through about seven online dictionaries to find the definition of work (singular) that includes "the total output" even though I knew it was correct. Most dictionaries I saw regarding this issue only have the singular usage ("a single piece of art or a product") and then use the plural "works" to refer to a body of work. Bizarrely, they'll include "work" as a synonym for "body of work," but don't include "body of work" as a definition of work. – WDO Oct 15 '18 at 19:09
  • @SuwonKim - Well, the actual answer to your question (work or works) is that both are correct. When it comes to teaching I'm not sure what to say. I would go to the English Language Learners forum and ask a question like "Please help me understand the differences between work (a single product) versus work (a total output) versus works (a collection of single products)" and see what they say. Sorry I can't be of more help. – WDO Oct 15 '18 at 19:24

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