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  • My favorite animal is a dog (or the dog).

  • My favorite animal is a horse (or the horse).

Both are correct, aren't they? But what if both animals are your favorites? How do we say it?

Is it correct to say: my favorite animals are a dog and a horse. Or rather: my favorite animals are dogs and horses. In which case, why do we put the animals in their plural form, i.e dogs and horses?

What is the difference, i.e. technical grammar explanation to this?

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    You can say ' my favourite animals are the dog and the horse'. Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 19:22
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    Do you mean to talk about a species in genreral, or a singular member of a species?
    – Davo
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 20:00
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    My favorite animals are dogs and horses. General statements in English use the plural form, very often: Apples are good for you. Motorcycles can be dangerous.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 20:11
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    How contrary is this? If your favourite animal is a dog that can mean a particular individual, despite the indefinite article. Conversely the dog would be any dog - generic. Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 20:13
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    To answer 'why put the dogs and horses in plural form?' To match the plurality of 'animals'. While JamesK is correct, using 'my favourite x is a y' isn't unheard of in native speakers. Also idiomatic is: 'my favourite animals are dogs'. Very technically - and possibly why you haven't encountered it before - 'favourite' arguably should apply to only one. It's strictest meaning is 'the most liked', or 'liked above all others'.
    – mcalex
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 12:15

3 Answers 3

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"My favourite animal is a dog" seems to refer to one single dog. "... his name is Scruffy".

If you mean you like dogs more than other animals you might use the "generic the"

My favourite animal is the dog.

However, that's rather formal. You'd actually probably be better to use the plural, and make "Dogs" the subject

Dogs are my favourite animals.

We can use plurals to speak in general about a "type of animal".

And so if you want to mention two types of animal:

Dogs and horses are my favourite animals.

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    +1 for rephrasing with "Dogs" as the subject
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 23:04
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    re: My favorite animal is the dog. This could also have a different meaning depending on context. e.g.: If you live in a house with a dog, a cat and a hamster, and you prefer the dog over the other two, for example. Or maybe you're referring to characters in a kid's movie. "My favorite animal is the dog. He had the best jokes." Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 16:38
  • Lots of people say "My favourite animal is a dog" meaning dogs in general. Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 18:59
  • Informally I would also expect to hear My favourite animal is dogs – I would disagree with @DJClayworth that '...is a dog' is at all natural unless a specific dog is meant.
    – dbmag9
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 13:52
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    @Chuck My favourite meal is eggs, my favourite band is the Beatles, my favourite weather is thunder and lightning. The subject of the sentence is 'my favourite animal' which makes the verb singular. The other way around, 'Dogs are my favourite animal' has 'are' because the subject is now plural.
    – dbmag9
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 21:08
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When you say

My favorite animal is a dog

you are stating that some specific dog is your favorite animal.

When you say

My favorite animal is the dog

you are stating that you favor dogs in general over any other type of animal. You could just as well say

My favorite type of animal is the dog.

Now, particularly in speech, not everyone will be careful about the use of the indefinite article, but when the the definite article is used, the intent is almost always to indicate a type or class.

There is no theoretical difference if “animal” is replaced by “animals.” However, it is less likely, at least in American speech, that the definite article will be used to distinguish between specific exemplars and general types. If a native speaker of American English wants to talk about mulriple types, they will far more often say

My favorite types of animal are dogs and horses

than

My favorite animals are the dog and the horse.

In fact, I venture the opinion that the second formulation will sound stilted to American ears.

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  • Speaking as a native AmE speaker, "My favorite types of animal are dogs and horses" sounds unnatural and stilted to me. I would word it rather as "Dogs and horses are my favorite animals".
    – Hearth
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 5:57
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It is better to use 'Dogs and horses are my favourite animals'.

We can also say 'The dog and the horse are my favourite animals'.

'My favourite animal is a dog and a horse' means a specific dog and a specific horse.

['My favourite animals are dogs and horses' and 'My favourite animals are the dog and the horse' are grammatically correct.]

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