But statistics has something more than this.

Until recently optics has only been three dimensional, and holography belongs to this form, too.

Similarly, the semantics has no special provision for tracking temporal changes.

Examples above 'demonstrate' that ics-words normally take a singular verb.

Nevertheless it seems that there are exceptions to this 'rule'. For example:

His mathematics were as good as his classics.

In this study, the mathematics of quantitative PCR are examined in detail, from which several fundamental aspects of the ...

This transition also provides an important insight into why the mathematics of symmetry are so deeply intertwined with ...

The mathematics of gambling are a collection of probability applications encountered in games of chance and can be ...

As a result, the economics of the business are now shaped by insurance markets just as they are by ...

Scotland could probably go it alone now, but the economics of independence are steadily worsening ...

... the semantics of a language are what the utterances of the language mean ( which is formalized in various ways, ...

The semantics of these operations are shown below. Square brackets are used to indicate atomic operations, i.e., ...

So the question is: Is there a general rule governing the ics-words in reference to the circumstances in which these words must take a singular or plural verb?

  • 1
    Are they authentic citations? Feb 21, 2013 at 21:01
  • @Barrie, yes, they are, but my source is not entirely credible.
    – user114
    Feb 21, 2013 at 21:04
  • @MετάEd I expect a feedback from you. Are you searching in the English corpora. What does the corpora tell you?
    – user114
    Feb 21, 2013 at 21:14
  • @MετάEd, are you satisfied? If not, I have more and more examples of these plural -ics forms.
    – user114
    Feb 21, 2013 at 21:29
  • 1
    I'll note that some of the "mathematics" examples which you list with a plural verb sound better to me with a singular verb. There may be a British/American divide here, as the usual American abbreviation of the subject is "math", while on the other side of the pond they use "maths".
    – Martha
    Feb 21, 2013 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


The use of words ending in "-ics" is governed by whether you are referring to a single body of knowledge or to objects/things.

But statistics has something more than this.

These statistics you presented are a pack of lies.

In the first sentence, "statistics" is used in the sense of "the field of statistics" or "the study of statistics". These are singular concepts. But in the second sentence, suddenly "statistics" is referring not to a single set of knowledge, but to multiple pieces of data. A plural verb should be used.

Until recently optics has only been three dimensional, and holography belongs to this form, too.

The optics in her telescope were superb.

Here again, "optics" is a field or concept. In the first sentence, the speaker is discussing optics in general, as a single whole. In the second, the speaker is talking about the particular lenses in the telescope.

For "mathematics", compare:

The field of mathematics is distinguished by its numerous contributors from across the world and through time.

The mathematics of quantum physics are hard for the average person to understand.

Generally speaking, if you are referring to a unified whole or a single thing, use the singular verb form. If you are talking about specific particular objects or subdivisions of a subject, use the plural form.


We use a singular verb when we refer to the scientific discipline and a plural verb in other cases:

Statistics is a branch of mathematics.

Statistics are collections of information in numbers.

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