Consider two sentences 1) Do not make noise when you visit 'a patient' in hospital. 2) Do not make noise when you visit 'patients' in hospital. Here do 1) and 2) mean the same or different ?

Another question - In sentence no. 2 'patients' means patients in general or more than one patient ?

1 Answer 1

  1. Do not make noise when you visit 'a patient' in the hospital.

  2. Do not make noise when you visit 'patients' in the hospital.

Practically, these are used to mean the same thing, don't make noise when you visit any patient in the hospital, regardless of the number of patients you actually visit.

Sentence 2 does mean more than one patient, but plurals can be used as a shortcut if the speaker/writer doesn't really know if one or more than one of something will be involved, or the exact number of something doesn't really matter. The speaker/writer may be assuming that you would see 2 patients or more if needed.

The technically correct thing to say would be:

Do not make noise when you visit a patient or patients in the hospital.

but it's wordy and makes it sound like you are trying to CYA.

  • Sentences like 'An apple a day is good for you.' , 'A whale is a marine animal' , 'A computer is a machine' are general sentences which means that it applies to all apples, all whales and all computers in general. Till here I'm sure but what if i say the definition of something (a definition of something will also be always true hence it will also be a general statement ) - for ex 'A noun is specific when the writer wishes to talk about some thing in particular.' What if we use 'writers' in place of 'writer' ?
    – Brock
    Apr 14, 2017 at 17:19

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