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  1. Most South Asians have a Toyota/Toyotas.
  2. All of them have a red car/red cars.
  3. It put a smile in their face/faces.
  4. Both of them have a baby boy/baby boys.

In these sentences I'm not sure if I should use singular or plural. I've looked it up and most answers are mixed. Some say that both are possible and some prefer singular.

Which one's more natural in conversational English?

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Plural agreement can raise questions of clarity. But context is important. When you're talking generally about groups of things, especially something like cars, you probably don't need the listener to know the exactly details of who owns how many things.

All of them have (a red car | red cars).

The meaning is immediately clear. Each person owns a red car. So you can really use either. I prefer the plural option in this case, because the subject is plural. If I wanted to use the singular a red car, I'd use a singular pronoun:

Everybody here has a red car. What a coincidence!

As a side note: it would be extremely unlikely that the speaker would mean to say that the group has a single car. (If that were the case, you would—or should—probably use the verb share: "All of them share a red car.")

When you need to specify that the groups do own multiple cars, you need to say that outright:

In the city's richest suburb, residents have multiple luxury cars per family.

In the example above, each resident owns more than one car. But in the example below, you can only assume that each resident has one car, but maybe more.

In the city's richest suburb, residents usually drive/have luxury cars.

In the example of the babies, things get a little tricky. Again, context is important.

Both of them have a baby boy/baby boys.

To be most clear, if each person has a single baby boy, you should say that.

Both of them have a baby boy.

These two examples might help shed some light:

We both have a boy at home. (We each have one.)

We both have boys at home. (We have multiple.)

We both have only boys at home. (Emphasis on boys.)


I found a lovely thread in English Language & Usage that thoroughly addresses the question of distributive plurals and arrives at the same conclusions as above.

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All of them are correct.

As a native English speaker, I would say that all of them are correct. With the exception of #3, the singular form is talking about their individual ownership of an object, while the plural version is stating that there is a group of objects that they all own one of.

"Most South Asians have a Toyota": Each of the members of the group referred to ("most South Asians") has at least one Toyota.

"Most South Asians have Toyotas": There is a nebulous class of objects ("Toyotas"), and each of the members of the group have one.

They basically mean the same thing, in practice; use whichever one you want to.

The third one is slightly different, because "their" can be either a singular or plural pronoun; the use of the singular "they" has been increasing lately as a gender-neutral pronoun.

"It put a smile on their face." You're talking about a single person with the singular they.

"It put a smile on their faces." You're talking about a group of multiple people with the plural they.

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