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I am really confused about the usage of livelihood and livelihoods in below sentences: "The falling orders for new ships mean that many shipyard workers are likely to lose their livelihood."

"Many ship workers could lose their livelihoods because of falling orders for new ships."

"They earn their livelihood from farming."

I came accross the above example sentences on Cambridge web dictionary, and I am left confused as to how livelihood could take a singular form when used with a plural noun/pronoun. I guess, in the 1st example, it's related to the shared experience of shipyard workers making ships and in the 2nd example, it's about seperate experiences of all?

Please clear my confusion.

Thanks in advance.

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In the first sentence, the lack of a plural could emphasise that many of the shipyard workers are likely to lose their own livelihood.

In the second, the plural could emphasise that many shipyard workers may lose all of their livelihoods, their collective livelihood, the one they share.

However, semantically, I don’t think it makes a difference, at least not in this case.

It has very little to do with grammar; I think it’s completely stylistic. All of the permutations make sense to me equally.

The falling orders for new ships mean that many shipyard workers are likely to lose their livelihood.

makes just as much sense as

The falling orders for new ships mean that many shipyard workers are likely to lose their livelihoods.

Likewise,

Many ship workers could lose their livelihoods because of falling orders for new ships.

seems to mean the same thing as

Many ship workers could lose their livelihood because of falling orders for new ships.

The plurals seems purely stylistic, because the emphasis that could be given by the plurals doesn’t seem to come into the text. Anyone who knows English will read them effectively the same way. Hope that helps!

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  • Thank you very much. It did help. – SANTOSH KUMAR Apr 3 at 21:13

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