Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A fruity problem from Nat

Dear Word Spy,

My mum says you can't say grapefruits, you have to say grapefruit, even if you've got a hundred of them. Is that TRUE?

Please answer me, from Nat

Dear Nat,

Hmm, this is one of those things that people disagree about.

Putting an "s" on the end of a word is what we do to make something plural - that is, when there is more than one.

Now, the word "fruit" is a noun - a name for something. There are some nouns in English that we don't think of as having a plural. Like "poetry" or "garbage" or "relaxation". You wouldn't put an "s" on the end of any of them, would you? These sorts of nouns are sometimes called non-count nouns, because you can't count them.

"Fruit" is like that too. Usually we don't say "fruits". Like, you mum would say, "Nat, do you want some fruit with your jelly and icecream and caramel sauce?" - she wouldn't say "do you want some fruits".

So this means that when we hear the word "fruits" even if it's on the end of "grape", it doesn't sound right. That's why some people say you should only say "grapefruit" no matter how many there are.

BUT other people think that grapefruit is a whole new word and so that really you should put an "s" on the end if there's more than one.

Hmm, personally, one grapefruit is quite enough for me...

yours fruitily, The Word Spy

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