Talk:feces

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Use with a singular verb[edit]

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feces

Is feces used with plural verbs and pronouns, or singular ones, or can it be used with both? For example, is it grammatically correct to say "feces have always been considered unclean", "an animal that eats feces may be attracted to their odor"? Is it grammatically correct to say "feces has always been considered unclean", "an animal that eats feces may be attracted to its odor"? - -sche (discuss) 22:56, 8 February 2014 (UTC)

It is always properly treated as plural, as far as I know. Your singular examples certainly sound wrong to me. 31.53.246.215 22:59, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
I think it's like data. It's supposed to be plural, but a lot of people treat it as singular. But the singular treatment is probably rarer due to the -s making it sound more plural than data. --WikiTiki89 23:00, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
While I find "the data has ..." quite acceptable, even to the extent of finding "the data have ..." slightly pedantic in some cases, "the f(a)eces has ..." just sounds impossible to me. 31.53.246.215 23:15, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
Searches for "feces are" vs "feces is" turn up too much chaff for me to sift through (e.g. "the color of feces is", "pieces of feces are", where the singular- or plural-ness of the verb is due to an earlier word), but after some thought, I did come up with some decent searches:
Now that I check other dictionaries, I notice that Dictionary.com says "used with a plural verb", while TheFreeDictionary.com says "used with a sing. or pl. verb".
What do you think of this usage note?

- -sche (discuss) 01:16, 9 February 2014 (UTC)

I'm surprised that anyone accepts such usage. I can only reiterate that, to me, a phrase like "feces has a strong smell" seems plain wrong. It would be interesting to see other people's opinions. 86.160.87.99 01:52, 9 February 2014 (UTC)
My unexamined instinct is to treat feces as a singular mass noun (unlike data, which I carefully always treat as a plural noun), but Boogle Gooks Ngram Viewer suggests it has always been more commonly treated as a plural noun. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 15:48, 9 February 2014 (UTC)
My inclination matches Angr's. I wonder whether this is a pondian difference.​—msh210 (talk) 16:25, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
For me, both "feces" and "data" are singular mass nouns. —CodeCat 16:29, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
But what's your dialect? (Though I linked to a description of my dialect, above, let me be explicit: it's American English.)​—msh210 (talk) 16:42, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Dublin English in pronunciation, but with many other influences because I've never lived in an English-speaking place. —CodeCat 16:48, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Good idea. If it were a Pondian difference, one would expect a difference in how often the American spelling "feces" took a singular vs plural verb, vs how often the British spelling "faeces" did. In the BNC, "faeces is" gets 8 hits, "faeces are" gets 6; in the COCA, "feces is" gets 6, "feces are" also gets 6... but these counts are unreliable because of the chaff I mention above, phrases like "the color of the feces is" and "piles of faeces are", where the singular- vs plural-ness of the verb is due to another word. In the BGC data I cite above, which I sifted the chaff out of, the ratio of singular to plural uses of "feces" is 12/56 (=0.21), while the ratio of s/p "faeces" is 1/24 (=0.04). - -sche (discuss) 19:56, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Thanks much. So I guess it's primarily plural everywhere (and perhaps more so in Rightpondia).​—msh210 (talk) 20:54, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
I find it really weird to spell it like this: in my view it should always be a diphthong, "faeces". How do we handle dialect issues in Wictionary? Diomedea Exulans (talk) 21:02, 21 February 2014 (UTC)