Do I understand the next right?

I caught a fish It will mean I just caught some fish in quantity of one.

I caugh two fish Means I caught two fish that are of the same species

I caught two fishes I caught some indefinite amount of fish of two different species.

  • Short answer: fishes is literary or Biblical. Yes, sometimes, in science papers. – Lambie May 22 at 14:17

If I heard someone say "I caught two fishes", I would assume that they mean "I caught two individual fish" and that they're deliberately speaking in a childlike way by using the wrong plural of the word "fish".

If someone wanted to say that they caught some indefinite amount of fish of two different species, they would probably say, "I caught two different kinds of fish."

It wouldn't be completely wrong to say "I caught two fishes" to mean "I caught two different kinds of fish" (since "fishes" does, in fact, mean "kinds of fish"), but it would be a very cryptic way of speaking.

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  • Then why do scientists use this word instead of saying and writing everywhere only "fish" and "kinds of fish"? – Michael Azarenko May 22 at 14:38
  • @MichaelAzarenko The form of the language used in scientific papers is different from the form used in everyday speech. If someone says "fishes" in a scientific paper, I know that they're not using childlike speech, so I know that they're using it to mean "kinds of fish". – Tanner Swett May 22 at 14:43
  • In other words, scientists are allowed to use childlike speech. If you are shown "fishes" out of context you will say: "Oh, no, it's not right, it's something what kids can say, not usual people. If you are told after that that this is a word from some scientific documentation you will say: "Oh, yeah, of course, it's completely correct". It's kind of unfair. – Michael Azarenko May 22 at 15:54
  • @MichaelAzarenko No, I didn't say that scientists are allowed to use childlike speech. The opposite is true: scientific papers are expected not to contain childlike speech. In any case, what matters is the context, not who the speaker is. Suppose you say: "I've decided to take pictures of as many animal species as possible. So I went outside and took pictures of four species of birds. I also captured three kinds of insects. Then I went out on the lake and caught two fishes." Then it would be clear that you're saying "fishes" to mean "kinds of fish" and not speaking in a childlike way. – Tanner Swett May 22 at 17:04
  • So, to use "fishes" correctly, a reader/listener should understand out of context that here the species are meant but not just an amount of fish? If I say "I caught two fishes", it's not clear whether I am talking about kinds of fish or just two fish of the same species. If to add the context you showed, the reader/listener will understand exactly the species are implied here and consider this usage of "fishes" correct? – Michael Azarenko May 23 at 5:33

Your first two interpretations are right, but your third isn't.

I guess you are thinking of the pattern where most uncountables can be made plural to convey "types of thing": like "I tasted three wines".

Unfortunately, fish doesn't work like that. Fish is countable in this context, and has a plural; it's just that the usual plural is the same as the singular (often the case for animals, cf sheep, deer). Fishes is just a less common variant for the plural.

So I caught two fishes sounds odd (perhaps baby-talk) but means the same as I caught two fish. Nobody would think you meant two different kinds of fish.

(Fish can also be uncountable, like many foodstuffs: I had some fish: it was delicious; but I think it would be unusual to use fishes in that context to mean "types of fish" either).

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  • I think about the only context I've encountered the antiquated plural fishes in the past half-century would be [the parable of the] loaves and the fishes. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 22 at 12:56
  • So, nobody in the world uses "fishes" in correct context? – Michael Azarenko May 22 at 13:50
  • I caught two fishes sounds non-native....come now. – Lambie May 22 at 14:17
  • So, in some science paper it sounds non-native, too? – Michael Azarenko May 22 at 14:20

I asked the same thing before. , the answer said,

Fish is certainly the most common and arguably correct plural of the word "fish". However, "fishes" is an archaic plural form, and is apparently also used in some situations which I will go on to explain.

An example of the archaic use of "fishes" as plural is the biblical account of a miracle involving "five loaves and two fishes". Actually modern English translations of this use "fish" as the plural, but people of a certain age were taught this in school from the King James version (1611) and as a result many people still refer to this as the miracle involving "five loaves and two fishes"! This idiom may even have been passed on to younger generations.

The collective term for fish is a school, or shoal. You would correctly refer to a school of fish - not "fishes".

However, I found this use of "fishes" as a plural in a scientific textbook from 1968. The book is even titled "Deep Water Fishes of California"!

Unless a marine biologist here can advise otherwise, it would seem that it is also acceptable to use fishes when referring to more than one type of fish, although it should equally be correct to say "different types of fish".


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Well, the first two are right, but the third is (technically) wrong. The only people that really ever say "fishes" are scientists, and even they dont say it all the time. Its like deer and moose. They can mean singular or plural depending on the other words used in the sentence.

I saw a moose. The letter "a" tells us that the next word is singular.

I saw some moose or I saw a lot of moose is plural, because the words in front of moose modify it to go from singular to plural.

So, in your example, if you wanted to tell someone you caught 2 different species of fish, you would say I caught 2 different fish and if you caught multiple fish, and it doesnt matter if the difference is specified, you could say I caught some fish.

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    Then why can scientists use "fishes" but I can't? – Michael Azarenko May 22 at 13:49
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    "I saw some moose" doesn't have to be plural, and fishes is not incorrect, it's just old. – Micah Windsor May 22 at 15:40
  • @Micha is right. Fishes is used as a more scientific term or multiple species of fish, but no one really says it anymore. So you can say it if you want, but most people dont. Also Micha, how is "I saw some moose" singular? – DripKracken May 22 at 16:49
  • It's just weird. There's some scientist in some special laboratory now examining biology and living creatures. He's studying fish and writing some documentation about it. Why doesn't he have a thought "Oh, no, I shoudln't use "fishes" becaus it's rarely used."? He conversely does use "fishes". Unfair a little – Michael Azarenko May 22 at 16:51
  • @MichaelAzarenko, I cant tell if youre trolling or being serious. – DripKracken May 22 at 19:36

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