the Allied commanders were appalled to learn that 300 glider troops had drowned at sea.

300 glider "troops" mean one troop with 300 gliders or there were different troops(first second,,, three hundredth troop)?

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    A 'troop' can be a group of soldiers (in some armies, not all), and 'troops' used in this way means 'soldiers'. 300 soldiers had drowned. May 1, 2023 at 17:52
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    In English, words often have completely different meanings. This is absolutely normal and ubiquitous. The word "troops" commonly means "plural of one human soldier". You might note that "troopers" has an identical sense. It's absolutely normal, almost universal, that sentences in English are ambiguous and can have two (often more) meanings.
    – Fattie
    May 2, 2023 at 12:52
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    Also not to be confused with "troupe", which, while pronounced exactly the same, refers to a group of performers (actors or musicians), not soldiers. It's generally unambiguous in writing, but in spoken English it can be easy to mix those up. May 2, 2023 at 13:24

3 Answers 3


There's two confusing meanings of "troops". In the plural, the word can mean either several groups of soldiers, or several individual soldiers.

In this context, it means 300 individual soldiers who were all glider infantry.


In theory, the word troop might have another interpretation. “300-glider troops” could, in some context, even mean multiple units of 300 gliders each.

In practice, “troops” is more commonly a synonym for “troopers,” unless someone is specifically talking about the unit of cavalry. (Some groups of children on wilderness trips are also called “scout troops” after them.) But you need to determine this from context. “Troops” as a reference to units does not make sense here (although you need a bit of background in military history to know why: the U.S. and British armies called their soldiers on gliders infantry rather than cavalry, the two armies had cavalry “troops” of such different sizes that a combined Anglo-American command would not use that term without saying which one they were thinking of, and three hundred troops of U.S. Cavalry would have been a loss of as many as thirty thousand men).

The Wikipedia page for the U.S. Cavalry, however, does use both meanings ambiguously. The sentence, “In March 1777, Washington established the Corps of Continental Light Dragoons consisting of four regiments of 280 men, each organized in six troops,” is referring to six military units of cavalry. But in the paragraph before that, we read, “Washington personally witnessed the effect of a small force of the 17th Light Dragoons had on his troops,” which is referring to the soldiers in his infantry. Later, we see the sentence, “In 1796, the number of troops was reduced to only two, which were amalgamated in 1798 with six newly raised troops to the Regiment of Regiment of Light Dragoons.” In context, this is also referring to cavalry units, not cavalry soldiers, because that is the only way the numbers make sense.

That kind of ambiguity is not good writing at all, but you should expect to encounter it.

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    "Troop" as a unit name is also used by some non-Cavalry groups - it is the smallest official unit within the Royal Engineers, for example.
    – MikeB
    May 2, 2023 at 11:27
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    Regarding this excellent answer, I would suggest, that is to say caution the OP that, "That kind of ambiguity is not good writing at all", is perhaps simply "wrong". It's absolutely normal, almost universal, that sentences in English are ambiguous and can have two (often more) meanings.
    – Fattie
    May 2, 2023 at 12:55
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    To add to the (potential) confusion, the presence of the hyphen in "300-glider troops" could also mean "an unknown number of troops, each of which occupied 300 gliders" which, if "troops" in that example is taken to mean "individual soldiers", gives rise to a truly remarkable mental image.
    – Spratty
    May 2, 2023 at 13:26
  • @Fattie I was ambiguous about what kind of ambiguity I meant! What I’d warn every writer to avoid is a sentence like my third example from Wikipedia, where the reader can only guess what the sentence is saying, based on which way the numbers sound more plausible. Every word has multiple meanings, but it’s bad writing to confuse your readers as much as the Wikipedia article on the U.S. Cavalry does.
    – Davislor
    May 2, 2023 at 14:25

To add some more information to the good answers already present, it appears that in US English troops (in the plural form) can legitimately be used essentially as a synonym for troopers when speaking collectively.

From Cambridge Online Dictionary , compare:

plural noun, US

soldiers on duty in a large group:

Thousands of troops have been stationed in the region for several years.

  • @Joachim Sorry to disagree, it adds a clear reference to a reputable source that states that this is a well established usage. The other current two answers didn't provide any reference, except for mentioning Wikipedia. May 3, 2023 at 13:51
  • @Joachim BTW, since this is a site for language learners, I think providing references to a source that specifically deals with language is paramount. I found the other answers lacking in this respect. May 3, 2023 at 13:56
  • Yes, you're right. On both accounts. Comment withdrawn :)
    – Joachim
    May 3, 2023 at 15:04

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