Should the noun state be singular or plural in this sentence

I have identified documents regarding computing technologies that will enhance my understanding of the current and future states of computing.

I think it should be plural, because I'm considering the current state and future state, i.e. two states.

I've seen it written in this way

This creative current and future state infographic showcase the difference between the current and desired state.

I think that first use of state is correct, because there state is being used as an adjective. However, I am less sure about the second use. I should mention that in this context "state" refers to the condition or health of a business. I think the addition of the word "between" makes the singular more appropriate, because it emphasizes it's a binary choice between one or the other of two singular options.

Have I interpreted both of these cases correctly?

  • Not an adjective, but the future state in both cases is one version compared with the current one. 1 - We don't know the future or how many states are coming, so it's all one big uncertain state. 2 - If we are changing from A to B, we compare the before and after state. Otherwise, we might be comparing all the before states with all the after ... no good. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 1:31
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    Think of "state of the art" in your first case. In the 2nd case the second "state" should technically be "states" since it's a noun, I agree.
    – Serguei
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 1:46
  • Singular all around. You have an elliptical state: the current [state] and future state of computing. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 3:07
  • (A) Check "I interviewed the Outgoing (Current) & the InComing (future) President or Presidents" : Plural is better (B) Check "We are making the current & future Home" : Singular is better because it is Singular (C) Check "We are making the current & the future homes" : Plural is better because it is Plural (D) Use "the current and future state of computing" if you think both will be similar (Singular) in some aspect , or use "the current and the future states of computing" if you think these are Different (Plural) (E) Singular : "the current & future" & Plural : "the current & the future" !
    – Prem
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 12:00
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    @Serguei: I just searched Google Books for the current and future state/states of play ("play" being the most idiomatic usage here that you'd expect to be resistant to pluralisation). GB claims to have 7 pages of results (10 to a page) for both versions. But when it comes down to it, they show one single result where the sought text can be read in context, for each alternative. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


There are arguments for both singular and plural in OP's context. On the one hand it's obvious that unless technological progress ceases completely, the future state of technology will be different to the current state. So that's at least two different states straight away.

On the other hand, at any given moment in time there's only one state. It's a single thing like a person. So just as you might refer to your past, present, and future wife (only one wife, who persists / changes over time), we can adopt that position for a single persistent state of affairs. And as this chart shows, that's what most of us do...

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Singular/plural isn't entirely an arbitrary stylistic choice here. There's at least the potential for a nuance of difference, in that at least some people will understand the relatively less common plural usage as more strongly emphasizing the difference between what we have now and what lies ahead. But many (most?) people probably just use one version all the time, so that's a spurious distinction to them.

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