In Collins Dictionary I have seen the following sentence, which gets me confused.

Over 25 people drowned when a schoolbus tried to cross a river and flood waters swept through.

We know that the word is uncountable, so there won't be a plural form of it with -s suffix. We can't say waters, can we?

Then if the same rule applies, it must be used as "flood water" not "flood waters". But then why does the dictionary uses it "flood waters"?


2 Answers 2


The word can be used in both the singular and plural. Sometimes it depends on the context. At others, it's simply a matter of preference.

In the example you give, either the singular or the plural would be fine.

You would always use the singular when speaking about a particular amount of water, as in:

The water in the cup/bucket/bath/pool/

Where floods and heavy rains are concerned, the plural is common (but not required), especially when used after flood:

waters from the deluge swept through the town

Additionally, the expression:

her waters have broken

is used with reference to giving birth.



I've never understood why the media insists on using "floodwaters" when reporting on a flood. The NewsLtd Style Guide doesn't have it; the Guardian's hedges its bets by including both. As with "wind", I'd go with the singular.

And be careful if you're following the lead of any dictionary that uses "Over 25 people" in an example sentence; numbers aren't "over"; they're "more than".

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