"huge volume of data" or "huge volumes of data"

Should I use a singular form or a plural form?

Search in Google results in 178,000 hits vs 256,000 hits.

closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, MetaEd, tchrist, StoneyB, JSBձոգչ Oct 3 '12 at 18:00

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  • 3
    In most cases either is fine. Normally one doesn't speak of volumes as a collection of discrete spaces unless that specific and fairly technical meaning is intended. – Robusto Aug 22 '12 at 15:18

It depends whether you are speaking generally or specifically.

If you are speaking in a general way, then in the same way that we say 'we handle huge cats', with cats in the plural, you would say "we handle huge volumes of data".

If you are speaking specifically, about one project for example, the in the same way that you would say 'we handled a huge cat' you would say "we handled a huge volume of data".


"Huge volume" implies that there is simply a lot of data. A huge, torrential deluge of data. Data, data, everywhere. But not compartmentalized, necessarily - just a lot of it.

"Huge volumes", though, implies that there are several volumes - sets, categories, groupings - that each contains a huge amount of data.

  • Yes, but that doesn't imply that huge volumes actually contain more data than a huge volume. – FumbleFingers Aug 22 '12 at 20:27
  • It doesn't imply it. In fact, I think it subtly implies the opposite - a "huge volume" seems bigger, to me, than several "huge" volumes. But that's a very fine distinction and is probably individual. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Aug 23 '12 at 5:30

You didn't specify if this is in a professional situation. Informally either is fine, as by using the word huge implies general conversation with non-precise terms. In technical circles you would be taken more seriously by using more specific terms. Not that you have to account for every byte but you can talk about rough size, growth factor, data retention and so forth. Huge can mean different things to different people. A desktop computer user would consider a hundred gigabytes as huge whereas in a data centre talk about terrabytes of data is usual.

  • In just a few years things will have grown to the point where people will be talking about single files 1000 times larger than a terabyte. I can't wait... ;-) – Jim Aug 23 '12 at 5:09

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