It is clear that the consumptions of beef, lamb and fish declined over a 5-year period.

I would like to ask that is it grammatically correct to use "consumption" as plural noun (consumptions) in order to mean: the consumption of beef, the consumption of lamb and the consumption of fish?

I know that consumption is an uncountable noun which is not supposed to be used as a plural form, but I still feel somewhat wrong to use just "consumption" to describe 3 objects.

Which one do you think is correct in the case above: "consumption" or "consumptions"?


Consumption usually appears as a singular collective to mean generally to use a resource and especially to ingest food. The plural consumptions is found but is quite rare, its uses far less than 1% of the singular form consumption, even taking into account that the latter is an old-fashioned name for tuberculosis. The plural occurs in two settings, the first when the things consumed are disparate. From Energy Pricing in India by H Sarkar and ‎G K Kadekodi (1988):

Second, while primary energy consumptions (consisting of solid fuels, oil, gas, nuclear and hydropowers) have increased both on per capita and GNP basis, the non-commercial energy consumptions (consisting of firewood, agricultural waste, animal dung etc.) declined between the same period.

The second, when the consumers are distinct: From Wild Otters: Predation and Populations by H Kruuk (1995):

Wayre (1979) weighed the food for two captives [otters] over 1 week, and found daily consumptions of 12.2 and 12.8 per cent of body weight.

The plural is also employed to distinguish between what is being consumed and who is doing consuming. From Opinions and Decisions of the Railroad Commission of Wisconsin (1980):

The application of the proposed lighting schedules to the 1924 consumptions of lighting customers indicates that these schedules will produce about 10 per cent more total revenues than the schedules now in effect.

The singular could lead to the interpretation that it was lighting customers who were being used every day to produce the lighting.

You'll have to decide for yourself whether beef, lamb, and fish are sufficiently different as foodstuffs to warrant the plural or whether they are sufficiently alike as comestibles to stick with the singular.

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  • Thank you user105719, I will give you a context in order to be more clear. Actually, I am writing a report in which I have to describe a line graph. This line graph has 3 lines illustrating the consumption of 3 kinds of meat. So in your opinion, which one do you choose, "consumption or consumptions"? – Tinh Le Feb 11 at 5:01

The singular form is more idiomatic. If you want to avoid the issue, you can reword it, such as saying "The amount of beef, lamb and fish consumed declined over a 5-year period" or "Consumption levels of beef, lamb and fish declined over a 5-year period".

Another issue to consider is whether you're claiming that the total amount declined, or that each amount declined individually. If the former, then you definitely should use the singular. If the latter, you would need to reword it if you wanted to make it clear. You can do that by using a plural term such as my "consumption levels" example, or by using "each", e.g. "It is clear beef, lamb and fish each declined in amount consumed over a 5-year period.

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  • Thank you Accumulation! If I used amount, I would definitely use it in plural form like the amounts of, but I've been confused with consumption. Thanks for answering my question! – Tinh Le Feb 11 at 10:03

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