First let me give a few sentences of generic reference : 1) A man needs friends. 2) Men need friends.

In 1) & 2) it refers to all men (men in general) or simply put 'man' is used as a generic noun here. My question is in this example is 'friends' also a generic noun here (friends in general)

Another part of question, can we use a sentence like this having the same meaning as above : 'A man needs a friend'.

1 Answer 1

  1. Yes - although perhaps depending slightlty on context.
  2. Yes. See Neil Young's song 'A Man needs a Maid'. Generic man, generic maid - although we might interpret it to mean 'this particular man needs that particular woman'.

The counter example might Neil Armstrong's famous quote. Although it comes across slightly differently, what Armstrong intended to say was:

"This is one small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind"

It's a generic man, but an individual nonetheless. Mankind, on the other hand refers here really to the history of human endeavour.

  • I request you to go through this link ell.stackexchange.com/questions/113434/… Here it says the berries is not a generic noun (all berries) but a plural noun meaning more than one berry. Plz clarify this doubt of mine. Thanks
    – Brock
    Apr 13, 2017 at 11:43

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