It is clear that "woods" is semantically plural, but what about gramatically? Can it be both singular and plural, as other collective nouns ? Example:

  • The woods of this town contain many secrets.
  • The woods of this town contains many secrets.
  • I think it's singular (a mass noun) but there may be exceptions. – marcellothearcane Sep 30 at 15:49
  • The woods around this town contain many secrets. – FumbleFingers Sep 30 at 15:57
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    Generally, we'd say have and not contain here. And we wouldn't say: the woods of this town. We'd say near this town, around this town, etc. or the town in these woods. – Lambie Sep 30 at 16:04
  • One particularly well-known example is Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Woods - always written using the "plural" form in A. A. Milne's original text, but searching for written instances of "the hundred acre wood / woods is / are [blah blah]" in Google Books, I see some people feel compelled to switch it to "singular" wood to tone down the awkwardness of the apparent noun/verb "plurality clash". – FumbleFingers Sep 30 at 16:18
  • See “Woods” and then verb. Singular or plural?. Also, it's not at all clear that woods is semantically plural. The plural formation is still often used to describe a singular object. I think what you meant to say is that the word, purely on its own, is syntactically plural. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Oct 6 at 3:45

I believe the answer to your question should be "The woods near the town contain many secrets."

Cambridge Dictionary calls "woods" a "plural noun", with the example "Shaded from the sun, the woods were cool and quiet."

wiktionary.org is more cautious: "usually in the plural, sometimes singular" and "Woods more often takes a plural verb (determiner, etc, as in these woods are) than a singular verb (as in this woods is)."

There is an interesting and apropos comment on english.stackexchange.com:

It gets trickier when there's an adjective. Although I can find both of these constructions in Google books, I wouldn't say a small woods (because it's plural), or some small woods (because mass nouns don't work that way; you can't say some small rice either). I'd say a small stretch of woods or a large expanse of woods. – Peter Shor

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