I recently wondered what the difference between attention and attentions was, as I've heard both, but couldn't think of or remember when someone would use attentions.

One definition for attentions gives "acts of courtesy, consideration, or gallantry, especially by a suitor."

So now I remember that attentions always seems to be used romantic contexts. I've personally never heard of it used in other ways.

So would it be appropriate to use attentions in a sentence such as:

His neglected daughter just wants his attentions.

And would it be incorrect to say, "He wants his mom's sole attentions" to mean that he wants his mom's focus to solely be on him? I just think it's weird because sole, meaning 'one and only' is describing a plural word; just as "sole focuses" would be weird. I don't know if it's just me.

  • I think using "attentions" in those two sentences you're asking about implies a perception of incestuousness. "His neglected daughter just wants his attention" & "He wants his mom's exclusive attention" seem correct to me. – user21497 Jan 15 '13 at 4:04
  • The only reason I'm considering "attentions" is because it could also mean "affections", which is not necessarily given with attention. But thank you for confirming that this would be inappropriate usage. – Blue Jan 15 '13 at 4:07
  • My long experience with the word "attentions" suggests that it's used almost exclusively in romantic contexts, usually in sentences like "She spurned his unwanted attentions" (all the little things that he did to show his romantic interest in her). That's what makes it inappropriate to describe a desire to be the cynosure of one's parent's attention. – user21497 Jan 15 '13 at 4:15
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    "He wants his mom's sole attentions" could mean that he wants her to tickle his feet... – MT_Head Jan 15 '13 at 20:44
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    @BillFranke As yes, as in the difference between favor and favors. :) – Kaz Jan 15 '13 at 21:23

Try something like,

His neglected daughter just wants his love and attention.

Or "care and attention". This avoids the problem of using the word attentions and having people read incestuousness into it; it also embraces the idea of affection and caring interest.

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