We are currently debating the structure of this sentence. A world without stroke. Should stroke be pluralised?

'A world without cancer' - Sounds odd when plural. 'A world without heart attacks' - Sounds odd when NOT plural.

What is correct for 'Stroke'?

Definition - a sudden disabling attack or loss of consciousness caused by an interruption in the flow of blood to the brain, especially through thrombosis. "he was left disabled by a stroke" synonyms: thrombosis, embolism, cerebral vascular accident, CVA, cerebral haemorrhage, ictus, seizure; archaicapoplexy "he had recently suffered a small stroke"

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    Cancer essentially refers to the disease itself rather than a specific case of cancer. OTOH, a heart attack can only refer to a specific event - it does not refer to whatever it may be that strikes us when we have a heart attack. What about (a) stroke? I'd say the word basically refers to an event, but I'm not a medic and I can't rule out the possibility that they use it to refer to the condition of having had a stroke, or maybe being at risk of having a stroke. If so, stroke would be an option - but strokes is definitely correct. – user339660 Jun 4 at 6:41
  • Contrast a world without fire (= a world where there is no such thing as fire i.e. where the phenomenon itself does not exist) and a world without fires (= a world where fires don't happen i.e. where the phenomenon does not manifest itself). – user339660 Jun 4 at 6:42
  • The fire analogy is a good one because it actually illustrates why stroke is a better option. “Stroke” is a pathological condition and doesn’t have any functional use beyond that definition, whereas “fire” can refer to intentional or accidental acts that are productive or destructive. A stroke is “always bad,” essentially, so there is no need to differentiate between the phenomenon not existing and not manifesting (since, in this case, these things are tautological). – Bruce Kirkpatrick Jun 4 at 6:52
  • Put simply, the goal of “eliminating stroke” to create “a world without stroke” would be: to prevent the phenomenon (“people having strokes”) from manifesting, which effectively eliminates the existence of the phenomenon (“stroke”). If no strokes occur, then they’re a purely theoretical / conceptual / uncountable construct, and wouldn’t be referred to in the plural, as detailed in my answer. – Bruce Kirkpatrick Jun 4 at 6:59
  • More than anything, it depends on context. If we’re looking ahead and referencing the current reality where a countable number of strokes do occur: ”eventually, I’d like to live in a world without strokes” — if we’re discussing a theoretical approach for eradicating the conceptual existence of strokes in general: ”Authors et al. propose a framework for a world without stroke.” And honestly, these are probably interchangeable too. Surprisingly thought-provoking question! – Bruce Kirkpatrick Jun 4 at 7:10

In general, "stroke" can be used as a non-countable noun with respect to the medical condition. As an example that directly answers your question (emphases mine):

Hamilton Health Sciences: Creating a world without stroke

For decades, our teams have been tackling stroke head-on. Their discoveries have set the compass for how we treat and prevent stroke worldwide.

Cutting stroke in half

Can you imagine a world without stroke? Dr. Jackie Bosch can, and she’s leading a mission to make that vision a reality.

While research has made great strides in finding new and better ways to treat stroke, prevention is even more important. Dr. Bosch has led worldwide studies showing that certain safe, inexpensive, easily accessible medications (e.g. blood pressure-lowering and cholesterol-lowering drugs) are better at reducing the risk of stroke than previously believed. Together, these medications have the potential to prevent 50 per cent of all strokes, which equates to tens of thousands of lives saved each year.

Stopping stroke in its tracks, sooner

When a stroke happens, millions of brain cells die with each minute that passes. In other words, the quicker a person receives emergency treatment, the less likely they are to suffer severe, potentially disabling brain damage. In recent years, the discovery of clot-busting drugs and special clot removal procedures have benefited countless patients by limiting the effects of stroke once it happens, but their effectiveness depends on how quickly the person receives treatment. Dr. Michael Sharma and his team are testing new drugs that act even faster and more effectively against a stroke to limit progression, giving more stroke victims a chance at life and, for many, a full recovery. Treating the worst strokes, better

Strokes are devastating, but some are worse than others. Hemorrhagic strokes, which happen when blood vessels rupture and cause bleeding in the brain, are more likely to lead to death and severe disability, yet fewer researchers have ventured into understanding them. Dr. Ashkan Shoamanesh is one of those few, and he leads a Canada-wide research group aimed at exploring how to prevent hemorrhagic strokes and to better treat people who suffer from them.

HHS & McMaster researchers find “simple” methods to prevent heart attack & stroke

Three simple methods to prevent heart attack and stroke have been proven by an international team led by Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and McMaster University researchers.


As such, with respect to the non-countable concept of "stroke," use "a world without stroke." (As demonstrated in the article, the same would go for "a world without heart attack." Like you mention, it's a little awkward without the plural, but if you're referring to the phenomenon as a concept to eradicate, the singular is correct.)

Further discussion:

From “Any” followed by singular or plural countable nouns?:

According to the books I've used (specifically Smart Choice by Oxford University Press and English in Mind by Cambridge), "any" is used only for uncountable nouns and plurals and when the sentence is a question or a negative. In the example above about "Do you have any ideas? / Do you have any idea?" consider that "Do you have any idea?" is using idea as a synonym of notion which in turn is uncountable. You would never use "any" for a singular noun you can count. Could you say "Do you have any books? / Do you have any book?"?

If you were asking a patient about their medical history, you might say "have you had any strokes?" because you're referencing a countable quantity (as with "any books" in the example above). In the case of your question, "stroke," in the context of "a world without," describes the absence of a concept but not a specific quantity (you could argue that quantity is zero, but I think this makes more sense a purely theoretical statement).

  • Any comments from the downvoter? – Bruce Kirkpatrick Jun 4 at 6:16
  • @AndyT Here’s a more direct example, then. Hamilton Health Sciences: Creating a world without stroke — “our teams have been tackling stroke head-on” ... “how we treat and prevent stroke worldwide” ... “Cutting stroke in half” ... “Can you imagine a world without stroke?” ... “reducing the risk of stroke” ... “Stopping stroke in its track” ... “limiting the effects of stroke once it happens” ... “methods to prevent heart attack and stroke” ... and then, when in the context of comparison (countable, at least 2): “Treating the worst strokes, better.” – Bruce Kirkpatrick Jun 4 at 14:06
  • @AndyT The answer’s already been accepted as correct and DV’s indicate whether or not an answer is useful. My original answer was factually correct and deemed so by the OP, and my comment clarifies that “stroke” is frequently used as a “non-count noun,” which was your concern. Seeing that you’ve got a high reputation and have been at this a lot longer than me, I’ll leave it since you have the ability to edit answers. If you truly feel that my answer is not ‘useful’ as-is — I feel that it is, especially with our comments — you’re welcome to edit it to meet your apparently higher standards. – Bruce Kirkpatrick Jun 4 at 14:29
  • @AndyT That’s fair — I never knew the comments weren’t permanent. I’ll add this context to my answer, in that case. Anyways, this question probably should’ve been closed for having no prior research, since Googling “a world without stroke” answers it immediately. – Bruce Kirkpatrick Jun 4 at 14:38
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    @AndyT edited, hopefully to your satisfaction! – Bruce Kirkpatrick Jun 6 at 15:59

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