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“Those who qualify will be awarded a certificate” or “those who qualify will be awarded certificates”?
“On their back” or “on their backs”?

Should the singular or plural of position should be used in the following sentences?

  • Why Political Parties Change Their Positions: Environmental...
  • Do the stars change their position through the course of the night?
  • Why do stars appear to change their positions through the year?
  • Why do shadows change their position during the day?

The sentences are from the first page of the Google search for should not change their position.

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    I think this is General Reference. Obviously if all the stars move in synchronisation across the night sky, it's valid to speak of their collective singular position changing. But that won't stop some people (in some contexts) deciding that each individual star (or political party) has it's own position - in which case collectively they have multiple positions to change". Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 0:28
  • This is NOT an exact duplicate of those two questions. It's certainly very similar. But the difference here is that "change their position" and "change their positions" are both grammatical, but have slightly different meanings - this difference is NOT the same for the corresponding sentences in the other two questions. If this question were open, I could explain why. Voting to re-open.
    – user16269
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 18:47

2 Answers 2

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All of these examples should use the plural positions. Stars and parties are plural, obviously, but also note that each star or each party has a position — so that when plural the positions are plural.

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  • Why Political Parties Change Their Positions: Environmental... (Talking about multiple parties and multiple positions within the parties)

  • Do the stars change their position through the course of the night? (Talking about multiple stars, but the individual position specific to a star)

  • Why do stars appear to change their positions through the year? (Talking about multiple stars and generally multiple positions (i.e. not a specific star or position))

  • Why do shadows change their position during the day? (Talking about one shadow and the position specific to that shadow (wouldn't be grammatically correct to say "Why do shadow change their position during the day"))

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