Sometimes symbols like variables take a plural name (fx when referring to a container), for example:

languages = ['English', 'French', 'German']

When then referring to the variable in for example documentation, should it be considered singular or plural (eg should one use singular or plural form of verbs). That is should I write:

languages contains the supported languages.


languages contain the supported languages.

Also note that it's a possibility that the container only contains one element.


1 Answer 1


This appears to be more about software naming conventions than English language. As you describe it, “Languages” appears to be the name of a set that may contain none, one or many languages. The set should be treated as a singular term.

  • The question is not about whether to call it language or languages, it's already decided to call it languages. The question is whether the symbol then should be considered a plural or singular noun, ie whether I should write "languages contain..." or "languages contains...".
    – skyking
    Jul 11, 2022 at 8:53
  • 2
    And Anton has answered that. languages is a single set, so it takes a singular verb (just as I did with is).
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 11, 2022 at 8:54

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