The title says it all.

The original question goes like this:

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the given word.

The flood which happened last week caused 100 people's _______ (death).

I answered with "deaths", but after checking the answer, it says "death".

Then I googled "death plural usage", but didn't find too much useful, which they don't match the question case at all. So I'm here looking for some help.

  • 1
    Please state the origin of the test. Aug 9, 2022 at 5:11

2 Answers 2


The test question is poor. Death may be regarded as an uncountable thing which requires a singular form: death comes to us all, or a countable thing: a pet's death is sad. If this distinction, which, as @James K says, is optional, is made, it is usually between:

(1) death in general or in the abstract
the government deplored 100 people's death in a flood and

(2) the deaths of individuals or types of death
100 people's deaths in a flood were mourned by their relatives
Police recorded 50 people's deaths from stabbing and 65 from car accidents in my town last year

Many people do not make this distinction and simply use singular or plural depending on the number, as you wished to in your answer.

It may be worth noting that, in the context of e.g. a riot, natural disaster, car or plane crash, etc, it would be assumed by a reader or listener that the deaths are those of people, so that The flood which happened last week caused 100 deaths would be a more natural way of saying it, and Last week's flood killed 100 people even more natural. The test sentence is an awkward, non-fluent one which may have been composed by a non-native speaker.

Josef Stalin, a famous former Soviet dictator, is often quoted as saying "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." There's no proof that Stalin ever said this, but even if he did, he would likely have been quoting a 1932 essay on French humour by a German journalist, satirist, and pacifist Kurt Tucholsky, who quotes a fictional diplomat from the French Ministry of Foreign affairs, speaking on the horrors of war.

"The war?" says Tucholsky's diplomat, "I cannot find it to be so bad! The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!"

  • Thanks. So I'm an ESL student, and the question comes from my homework - I doubt that they must "copy and paste" some questions from the Internet. I did think that this question's answer could be both, as my mind told me so. Aug 9, 2022 at 10:42

Both are possible:

Three days of protests, which resulted in over 100 people's deaths and untold property damage (source)

NIHSA was forced to declare flooding a natural disaster when it led to more than 100 people's death. (source)

However the singular form is more common.

Better would be to use "of": "... the death(s) of 100 people". Again both singular and plural are possible. Even better would be to rephrase, perhaps as "The flood last week killed 100 people" or "100 people died in last week's flood".

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