I saw a title of an article:

happiness, anxiety and their relationship with diseases

I am confused. Why it is "their relationship", not "their relationships". Shouldn't there be two pairs of relationship? One between happiness and diseases, the other between anxiety and diseases!

  • could you cite the source? or give a complete sentence? Dec 29, 2020 at 20:55
  • Hi, thank you for your response. It is a title of an article.
    – MilkyWay
    Dec 29, 2020 at 20:59

1 Answer 1


The use of the singular implies that there is (or the author thinks there is) a single relationship between what might be called "emotional state" and disease, with "happiness" and "anxiety" being merely two possible values of a person's emotional state.

  • Thank you, I think what you say is reasonable. So, it means that if we treat the two emotions separately, "relationships" should be used?
    – MilkyWay
    Dec 29, 2020 at 21:54
  • @MilkyWay Yes, in theory at least. But this is the kind of thing about which fluent speakers are not always as precise as one might wish they were. So one may see a singular mused when a plural would be more appropriate. Dec 29, 2020 at 22:02
  • But if we use "relationship"(singular), is it still right? (treating the emotions as two separate ones)
    – MilkyWay
    Dec 29, 2020 at 22:10
  • @MilkyWay No I would say that it is wrong, or at least it is poor writing, but it is a kind of poor writing that one often sees, and that many people do not take much notice of. Dec 29, 2020 at 22:13
  • Yes, I think it is in this way
    – MilkyWay
    Dec 29, 2020 at 22:24

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