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This question already has an answer here:

First let's consider a few sentences 1) A cow is a useful animal. 1') Cows are useful animals.

(In sentence 1) 'a cow' represents all cows in general)

2) A good student is fun to teach. 2') Good students are fun to teach. (In sentence 2) 'a good student' represents all good students in general )

These above four sentences are true for any cow and any good student, i guess because 'cow' and 'student' there are generic nouns.

Now my question is - Suppose the govt has launched a scheme named X and I'm making a sentence like this - 3) "According to this scheme a farmer will get monetary benefits if 'a crop' fails". Vs 4) "According to this scheme a farmer will get monetary benefits if 'crops' fail".

Is there any difference in meaning in the sentence 3) and 4) ? In sentence 3) can I say that 'a crop' here represents all crops in general ?

marked as duplicate by Nathan Tuggy, shin, Glorfindel, Laure, M.A.R. Apr 19 '17 at 10:20

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"A farmer will get monetary benefits if crops fail" technically means that more than one crop must fail for any given farmer to get benefits. Depending on context, that might mean that the farmer must be growing multiple crops, and at least two of these must fail for him to get benefits, or it might mean that if multiple crops fail, than a farmer who was growing any of these crops could get benefits.

There's also the fact that "crops" is sometimes used as a collective noun. Even if a farmer is growing only one thing, we might refer to this as "his crops".

This might be accurate or not depending on the terms of the law in question.

In practice, English speakers are often loose about singular and plural in contexts like this. I think most people would interpret your two sentences to mean the same thing. If you are writing the text of the law and lawyers and bureaucrats and judges will be parsing it word for word, you need to be rigorous. Otherwise, not so much.

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