Does the tangible have the same meaning as tangibles? Why was the tangible used instead of tangibles? Is it related to 'the + adjective = plural noun'? If so, the verb is doesn't make sense.

Digital technology accelerates dematerialization by hastening the migration from products to services. The liquid nature of services means they don’t have to be bound to materials. But dematerialization is not just about digital goods. The reason even solid physical goods―like a soda can―can deliver more benefits while inhabiting less material is because their heavy atoms are substituted by weightless bits. The tangible is replaced by intangibles―intangibles like better design, innovative processes, smart chips, and eventually online connectivity―that do the work that more aluminum atoms used to do. Soft things, like intelligence, are thus embedded into hard things, like aluminum, that make hard things behave more like software. Material goods infused with bits increasingly act as if they were intangible services. Nouns morph to verbs. Hardware behaves like software. In Silicon Valley they say it like this: “Software eats everything.”

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    The tangible is a way of saying That which is tangible. Nov 1, 2019 at 1:07

2 Answers 2


Consider this example sentence:

In many retail transactions, the physical object has been replaced by a digital one.

Which object in which transaction am I referring to? No single object right? But "has" is still correct. The example you gave is similar. The singular here is used to speak in general.


Yes, the phrase "the tangible" refers to "tangibles" in the sentence.

The word "tangible" here is a countable noun, meaning something that's real in a physical way. You can use the definite article "the" before a singular noun to refer in a general way to people or things of a particular type. For examples:

This book gives some useful tips for the beginner (= for beginners).

The cobra is a poisonous snake (=Cobras are poisonous snakes). (Merriam Webster).

So it's all the same if you say "the tangible is" or "tangibles are". However, the latter seems more common.

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