Can I compare nouns with contrasting numbers.

Assume I'm in a furniture shop:

These cabinets are like the guy from yesterday.

Or should I always tie the numbers? So I should just pick one cabinet to compare with the guy.

My girlfriend is like these mystery doors. Oh, they're not mystery doors? That's okay she doesn't exist either.

Again, is it okay to compare nouns that differ in number?

These sofas are like me.

Assume the sofas have different design and comparing them to me describes my moods. For informal use, should I put "s" after "me" to make it plural. If I have to, should I put "-"? Mes or me-s?

3 Answers 3


I don't think there's anything wrong with the comparisons you've provided, although they sound rather idiosyncratic and jocular, but this may be what you're going for.

It might be better to indicate one of the cabinets or sofas and say "this cabinet" or "this sofa", but if you think that would just lead to irrelevant questions about which sofa, I think you can say "these cabinets" or "these sofas".

I would avoid pluralising "me", even in the most informal or jocular contexts. The only time this might be appropriate would be if you were talking about a situation where you had been cloned. We never use a hyphen to pluralise (so it wouldn't be "me-s"). Traditionally the apostrophe is used when pluralising names of letters, digits and certain words that are rarely pluralised ("a's", "3's", "do's and don'ts"). However, because the apostrophe is wrongly used by some people in pluralising ordinary nouns (*"potato's"), it now gets drummed into people at school that using the apostrophe to pluralise a word is "always" wrong. This has resulted in the traditional use of the apostrophe (in plurals such as "3's") becoming stigmatised. Consequently, people tend to avoid it even in those cases (and write "as" or " 'a's ", "3s", "dos", etc). Most people therefore would probably favour "mes" as the plural.

  • 1
    All the WORDS you said are like A MAGNIFYING GLASS that makes everything clearer. So, does that sound fine to you? Are you an English speaker? Do native speakers sometimes speak like this too? And am I breaking any grammatical rules?
    – Xyenz
    Sep 17, 2017 at 13:46
  • 1
    Yes, that sounds fine. Yes, I'm a native speaker of English. You're not breaking any grammatical rules, but some of these comparisons seem a little strange at first - it's possible someone will be a bit puzzled or give you a funny look until you explain the similarity (which you only did for the mystery doors example). It is possible that a native speaker might make some funny comparisons, though I am not sure it's common.
    – rjpond
    Sep 17, 2017 at 18:56

I do not disagree with rjpond’s answer and have upvoted it.

It strikes me, however, that his answer is naturally colored by the oddity of the original poster’s examples.

English grammar never precludes uttering any thought; it is not the mythical language of Leibnitz with a grammar that prevents the expression of falsities. It is possible to lie in English with impeccable grammar. It is possible in English to express complete nonsense in a completely grammatical way. What grammar does is to limit how a thought may be expressed rather than whether it can be expressed.

The question of whether it is grammatical to compare a singular noun with some plural nouns or to compare plural nouns with a singular noun starts from the false premise that English grammar precludes expressing a class of thought. The only reason that the question arises is because the examples are odd. It is not obvious in what way a human being is like a singular door or like multiple doors.

My wife is like a window

sounds just as odd to me as

My wife is like windows

In fact, comparisons between singulars and plurals abound. No one would find grammatically strange or difficult to understand (although many would disagree) with

Biden surpasses even such brilliant and transformative Democratic presidents as Jefferson, Jackson, Roosevelt, and Johnson.

Many would agree with

Biden seems fated to leave a historical legacy of being inadequate for the challenges of his day, to be like notoriously inadequate presidents, such as Buchanan, Harding, and Carter.

The problem with the examples given by the OP is that, without further elaboration, they make no sense. Their grammar is fine.


I agree with Jeff Morrow and upvoted him. But let me add some thoughts.

Yes, there is nothing wrong, grammatically, with comparing a single thing to multiple things. To simplify his example, it would be completely correct and not strike anyone as strange to say, "President Biden is like other presidents because he also ..." (Whether the comparison is positive or negative. Not here to debate politics, just discuss grammar.)

It would be completely normal to say, "This chair is like those sofas you were complaining about yesterday. It, too, is poorly made and low quality."

What makes your examples ... awkward ... is that we don't normally compare people to furniture, except as a joke. If you said, singular or plural, "These cabinets are like the guy from yesterday", or, "This cabinet is like the guy from yesterday", I'd think you either mis-stated what you were trying to say, or I would be waiting for the punch line of the joke. When I first read your example I thought it was a mistake, you meant to say, "These cabinets are like the cabinet the guy was looking at yesterday", or "The guy looking at these cabinets today is like that other guy who was here yesterday looking at cabinets." Not because there's something wrong with comparing a singular to a plural, but because it's odd to compare a piece of furniture to a person.

Not wrong or impossible, just odd. We do sometimes compare very unlike things. Like Shakespeare's poem, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" It's a strange comparison, but then he goes on to explain it so we understand.

Just by the way, the example about mystery doors doesn't really make sense. It's not grammatically wrong, but logically wrong. "They're not mystery doors? She doesn't exist either." But if they're not mystery doors, that implies that they are something else. That is, they do exist. They exist, they're just not mystery doors. I think what you meant is something more like, "My girlfriend is like the hidden door by the fireplace. There is no hidden door by the fire place? Yeah, my girlfriend doesn't exist either." Of course a joke doesn't have to make logical sense, but I think this doesn't make sense in the wrong way.

  • I have upvoted your answer as well. But even in Shakespeare's sonnet, the "compare to" instead of "compare with" may imply that the comparison is not really sound. Indeed, later lines explicitly say why the comparison is false: "rough winds do shake the darling buds of May" yet "thy eternal summer shall not fade." I think all three who have answered agree: the appropriateness of a comparison is not a grammatical issue but rather an issue of human comprehensibility. Jul 11, 2022 at 17:43
  • @JeffMorrow Sure. An analogy can be completely valid grammatically but make no sense. If I said, "Joe Biden is like a rooster because both are 12 feet tall and green", the grammar is valid but the comparison makes no sense in many ways. A bizarre-sounding analogy may be effective if you go on to explain it in a way that it makes sense. "My girlfriend is like a flower because both are pretty." Maybe true but boring and ineffective. But "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" is remembered precisely because it is a bit of a stretch.
    – Jay
    Jul 12, 2022 at 2:53

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