I saw a line in the English subtitles of a non-English show:

Stop playing. Go all out to fight me, or you will end up using up all of your labors.

I first went and made sure the subtitles were produced by an American company and supposedly by native speakers of American English. The exact meaning of labors here appears to be energy or power. Although the meaning of the sentence is apparent, I am having a hard time having this usage corroborated by dictionaries. I have checked M-W, Oxford Online, Macmillan, Cambridge, and Google Dictionaries for the plural usage of labor. Weirdly enough, many dictionaries don't have entries for a countable/plural noun usage of labor.

There is only one entry in Macmillan that includes labors, however, it also specifies that this usage is uncountable:

labor or labors [UNCOUNTABLE] FORMAL work that involves effort, especially physical effort

If Macmillan is correct, then should I say:

Hercules' labors is (or are) depicted in detail in the book.

Merriam Webster, on the other hand, doesn't have an entry for the plural labors, but there is one in Merriam Webster Kids Dictionary (lol) that defines labor as a task. However, these definitions (task and work, which are basically the same) don't match the usage at issue, which most likely means energy or power. Is the usage in my original question correct? Also is labors uncountable?


2 Answers 2


Labor is uncountable when it refers to effort or work in the abstract, or to those who labor en masse.

Labor was something he had never known or wanted to know, being born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Labor was divided in respect to the proposed tariffs.

Labors refers to instances of effort or work, as in

The sculpture depicts the twelve labors of Hercules, which are as follows: ...

Labors can also refer to a multiplicity of efforts presented as a unity or monolith:

She was rewarded with a corner office for her labors.

There, you could paraphrase "her labors" as "all her hard work".


It's archaic and possibly inaccurate.

Here is a more contemporary translation of your subtitle:

Stop playing. Come out and fight me, or risk wasting all your effort.

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