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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.
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  • I think it's singular (a mass noun) but there may be exceptions. Sep 30, 2019 at 15:49
  • The woods around this town contain many secrets. Sep 30, 2019 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, 2019 at 16:04
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    None of the answers point out that this is a British/American difference. In British English "woods" is always plural, but we can talk about "a wood". For (at least some) Americans, "woods" is singular.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 22, 2020 at 18:14
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    @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica: I call "Citation needed" on "The Hundred Acre Woods". I remember it from my childhood as The Hundred Acre Wood, and Wikipedia agrees. Admittedly there are no sources cited for that article, but on the low-resolution image of Shepherd's I believe I can make out "HUNDRED ACRE WOOD".
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 21, 2020 at 22:28

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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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  • The woods can be part of a town....so, town woods works fine.
    – Lambie
    Jul 21, 2020 at 18:49

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