The grammar book presents examples:

  • the realm of science

  • the realms of science-fiction

Would you explain why -s is added above, please?

  • 1
    All the definitions I've found say that 'realm' is a countable noun (as an area, or kingdom). – Andrew Tobilko Jun 27 '18 at 10:10
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    e.g. the idiom "beyond/within the realm(s) of possibility" is used in 2 variations. – Andrew Tobilko Jun 27 '18 at 10:13

An s is added above because the writer chose to add it. It implies that there is more than one realm to science fiction, as though there were different areas/concepts/universes of science fiction.

But most writers would have conceived of science fiction as a single realm.

Idiomatically one speaks of the realm of the animals and the realm of the birds or fishes. (Fishes is an alternative plural of fish)

So that if you were trying to embrace all of creation you might speak of the realms of the birds, animals and fishes (and anything else you might wish to include. This is not about biology.)

As with most collective nouns, whether we conceive them as singular (a group of onlookers) or plural (groups of onlookers) depends on context and preference. There are no hard and fast rules.

  • See this concerning the fishes thing. – userr2684291 Jun 27 '18 at 10:48
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    Well, there's hard vs. soft science fiction, just for starters, with many more possible subdivisions. We who enjoy science fiction also tend to enjoy quibbling over minutia. – Andrew Jun 27 '18 at 15:54
  • Does this give me the opportunity to join Obi-Wan Kenobi in wishing the force to be with the soft Brexiteers and the hard Brexiteers to be zapped with lightsabres? – Ronald Sole Jun 27 '18 at 16:21

In my experience, the most common uses of the word "realm" are quite abstract, and it used by native English speakers without too much thought. In the context of your example, most people would not get overly concerned if it was plural or not.

Historically, the word "realm" meant a kingdom, or a territory. So as you can appreciate, there are many different territories, countries, kingdoms etc, and so to use realms in the plural could be quite correct.

These days that original meaning is almost archaic, but the secondary meaning your examples refer to is "a field or domain of activity or interest". Again, there are many different fields of interest, including within your two examples of science and science-fiction. There are different sciences (physics, biology, chemistry for example) and these would commonly be called "fields of science", so I see no problem with the phrase "within the realms of science". But then again, to say "science" instead of specifying physics or biology is something of an "umbrella term", and if the speaker/writer is happy to lump all sciences together then I find "within the realm of science" equally acceptable.

As for science-fiction, well, writers of sci-fi make up the rules as they go. Sci-Fi fans would say there are many different "universes", as well as different genres, so whatever way you look at it I'd say there are "realms" of science-fiction.

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