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I stumbled upon such a sentence in a book:

Every year millions of acres of forest are cleared to make the paper for newspaper.

In my opinion, the plural form, newspapers, would sound more natural.

What would be the difference in meaning between the singular and plural forms in such a sentence?

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    It is an odd usage. We use newspaper as a non-count noun for sheets of old newspapers used as wrapping or packing material, but the paper for newspaper doesn't sound natural. Jan 8 '21 at 15:47
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    It looks like a typo. It should be either “cleared to make newspaper” (which is still a little weird) or “cleared to make (the) paper for newspapers”.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 8 '21 at 16:01
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    As a reminder, questions on Stack Exchange are expected to demonstrate some initial efforts at research. Newspaper has a use as mass noun meaning the paper of a newspaper: newsprint [MW].
    – choster
    Jan 8 '21 at 17:12
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    But "newsprint" is probably a better choice of word anyway. Jan 8 '21 at 19:24
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    @choster To me that’s the equivalent of saying “Millions of seeds are planted every year to grow flowers for roses.” instead of “to grow roses” It seems a very odd thing to say to me, and it seems very obvious to me that the sentence has a typo because of the phrasing.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 11 '21 at 19:27
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The word "newspaper" here is not acting as a singular noun, but an uncountable or mass noun. For instance, you can have "1 river", "2 rivers", etc; but you would not normally have "1 water" or "2 waters", only "some water" - "river" is countable, "water" is (normally) uncountable, so has no plural.

In English, many nouns can be both used in both countable and uncountable forms, with different meanings; in this case:

  • As a countable noun, "newspaper" refers to either a single physical item (e.g. "I bought a newspaper from the shop"), or a single publication (e.g. "the Guardian is a better newspaper than the Daily Mail").
  • As an uncountable noun, "newspaper" refers to the material newspapers are made of (e.g. "we throw away several tonnes of newspaper every week"). This is the sense used in your quote.

As pointed out in the comments, there is a bit of redundancy in "... to make the paper for newspaper" - if paper is the only ingredient, it would make more sense to say "... to make newspaper". If you think of "newspaper" as being the printed product, though, you could have both "the paper to make newspaper" and "the ink to make newspaper".

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According to wordhippo, newspaper can be both countable and uncountable, meaning both 'newspaper' and newspapers' are correct in each their specific cases.

In more general, commonly used, contexts, the plural form will be newspaper.

However, in more specific contexts, the plural form can also be newspapers (e.g. in reference to various types of newspapers or a collection of newspapers.)

So in conclusion, the wording in the book was correct because it is more of a general talk about newspaper ;)

Go read here for more information

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"Newspaper" can indeed be used as a mass noun, and is being used in that way in the example in the question, as the answer by IMSoP correctly indicates.

However the wording "to make the paper for newspaper" is odd, as several comments suggest, particularly those of ColleenV. Newspaper (also called "newsprint" ) is a kind of paper. It is not made from some other paper, but from pulp, as most papers are. Thus the example would be better as:

Every year millions of acres of forest are cleared to make newspaper.

Even better would be:

Every year millions of acres of forest are cleared to make newsprint.

or

Every year millions of acres of forest are cleared to make newsprint for use in newspapers.


By the way to clarify the usage: the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "Newsprint" as:

paper made chiefly from groundwood pulp and used mostly for newspapers

Wikipedia says:

Newsprint is a low-cost, non-archival paper consisting mainly of wood pulp and most commonly used to print newspapers and other publications

The Cambridge dictionary defines "newsprint" as

cheap, low quality paper that newspapers are printed on.

"Newsprint" means the paper, not the ink. It is, however, sometime used for the finished publication:

John was surprised to find his doings discussed in newsprint.

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  • "Newsprint" makes me think of the ink component (the part you print with), so cutting down trees to make it sounds somewhat odd. Possibly, the writer of the sentence in question was implying that newspaper was made from both paper and ink, and so qualified that it was the paper component that came from trees.
    – IMSoP
    Nov 3 '21 at 18:36
  • @IMSOP Werriam-webster defines "Newsprint" as: "paper made chiefly from groundwood pulp and used mostly for newspapers" Wikipedia says "Newsprint is a low-cost, non-archival paper consisting mainly of wood pulp and most commonly used to print newspapers and other publications" Cambridge defines it as "cheap, low quality paper that newspapers are printed on" "Newsprint" means the paper, not the ink. Nov 3 '21 at 18:44
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    Fair enough, I guess I've learned a new word today.
    – IMSoP
    Nov 3 '21 at 18:49

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