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Then suddenly, despite all their ______ (assurance/ assurances), they broke the agreement and signed a deal with a rival company.

I’m not sure which form of the word ‘assurance’ should be taken in this sentence. I think the word assurance itself means ‘promise’ here, but not ‘ confidence’ , and according to the dictionary it’s a countable noun. But our teacher provides us with the answer ‘assurance’ the single one. Is the answer wrong?

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The same word can have different meanings. It is often the case that with one of the meanings the word is countable, and with the other, not.

If you can put "a" or "an" in front of the noun for the meaning in question, it is always safe to use the plural with all

We can give someone "an assurance", that is, a guarantee or promise, so:

... despite all their assurances (i.e. promises) , they reneged

... The lawyers filed many pleadings (i.e. legal motions, submissions) seeking damages, but despite all their pleadings, their client did not receive a penny.

When an article is not used (with the particular meaning in question) use the singular:

... despite all her assurance (i.e. self-confidence) she felt ill-at-ease in front of a large crowd

... despite all their pleading (i.e. imploring, begging) they were sent to bed with no TV

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  • I wouldn’t write off “despite all their assurance”. Assurance is uncountable rather than singular there. – Lawrence Mar 8 '19 at 12:47
  • @Lawrence: I wouldn't write it off completely, but it normally is countable when the meaning is "guarantee" or "promise" (as in OP's example) and uncountable when it means confidence in one's own abilities. – TRomano Mar 8 '19 at 13:09
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    So... assurance here means ‘promise’ and I should use its plural, right? – Ivie Mar 9 '19 at 0:46
  • Sorry to bother again... what do you mean by‘ (with the particular meaning in question) ’in your answer? – Ivie Mar 9 '19 at 0:49
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    Your rules are self-contradictory. Based on your first sentence, it should be all their pleadings and all her assurances. However, you've used the singular. Either your first sentence is wrong or your final two examples are wrong. – Jason Bassford Mar 9 '19 at 9:46
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Technically, I believe it depends on whether "their" in the sentence is a singular or plural usage. If "their" is plural (in the sense of they), then "assurances" should be used. If "their" is singular (in the sense of a company for example), then "assurance" might be more appropriate. However, since "all" is used, "multiple assurances" is probably implied either way. If that is the case then the plural form "assurances" is correct.

Then suddenly, despite all their (Joe's, Karen's, and Fred's) assurances, they broke the agreement.

Then suddenly, despite all their (a company sent them a letter) assurance, they broke the agreement.

Then suddenly, after their third apologetic letter, despite all their (a company sent them 3 letters) assurances, they broke the agreement.

Generally, you can treat it like any other noun. If multiple assurances were given/received use the plural. If one assurance was given/received use the singular.

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