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Does anyone know which kind of noun 'public' is?

Is it a common noun or a collective noun?

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    Your question title asks if "public" is a mass noun, and your question asks if it's a common or collective noun. What exactly do you want to know? – BillJ Nov 27 '18 at 18:52
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According to Oxford Living Dictionary noun 'public' can require both singular and plural verb forms. If we consider the community as a whole unity, 'public' is used with a singular verb form, for example, the public is very noisy. When 'public' is seen as a group of people, we can use a plural verb form, for example, the public in the bar were watching football. The other examples of collective nouns which can have 'is/are': crew, family, company, etc.

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public noun [ U ] [U] Cambridge Dictionary

It is an:

Uncountable or singular noun: a noun that has no plural.

I is not commonly pluralized.

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    I think Cambridge are just being sloppy. Suppose my wife always has to put her makeup on before meeting her public, but my public don't care about such niceties. I could quite reasonably say we have different publics, as have hundreds of writers before me. – FumbleFingers Nov 27 '18 at 18:40
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    @FumbleFingers By the same token, can I say "human and physical capitals" considering human capital and physical capital are different kinds of capital? I asked this question a while back and am still uncertain. – user280704 Nov 27 '18 at 18:45
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    @FumbleFingers Well, you can do whatever you want with language. Dictionaries simply attempt to describe language. They don't define it. They describe common uses of words. "public" is not commonly pluralized like you're suggesting, or else it would be in the dictionary. You are of course free to use it though. That's how language evolves. – only_pro Nov 27 '18 at 18:52
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The Oxford English Dictionary quotes a reference from The Times in the year 2000 as follows :

2001 Times 12 Sept. 13/2 Moderate Arab governments whose unfeigned horror at what has happened is dictated as much by anxieties about the impact on their own publics as it is by common humanity.

This agrees with the comment made by @FumbleFingers regarding 'we have different publics'.

And it would indicate that 'public' can be a countable noun.

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