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I understand that elections can be used to generally refers to elections, but can it be used to refer to elections happening in a specific case?

I am asking because in Italian I would say the equivalent of "the election of the President of the Republic," but I would say "In the last elections, none of the parties had the absolute majority, and it is able to govern." (I just translated word-by-word the sentence in Italian.) With last elections, I mean the elections that were held between February 24 and 25 to decide who will govern Italy.

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  • In Italy, the President of the Republic is not the head of the government, and he is not elected from the people. In my examples, I am referring to two different elections. – apaderno Mar 27 '13 at 21:29
  • In your last example ("last elections", Feb 24-25) is more than one person being elected? (For example in US presidential elections, often other offices are on the ballot as well and can be voted for at the same time. ex. I could vote for the President as well as, say, my State Representative or something.) – WendiKidd Mar 27 '13 at 21:56
  • The elections were for the Italian Parliament, which is bicameral (Chamber of Deputies, and Senate of the Republic). I found a Wikipedia article about those elections, and the title is "Italian general election, 2013." – apaderno Mar 27 '13 at 22:26
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    Hmm, interesting. I was going to say that if the elections elected more than 1 person, they could be called plural elections simply in reference to more than one election to office. As in, there was an election for the Chamber of Deputies and an election for the Senate of the Republic; they were held simultaneously and are, together, elections. The wiki article seems to differ, though, so now I'm not so sure! – WendiKidd Mar 27 '13 at 22:30
  • Your comment made sense to me, and I am confused about that title too. Can general election justify the use of the singular word? – apaderno Mar 27 '13 at 22:40
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I would think that whether or not 'election' should be plural would be dependent upon how many people are being elected.

If a single person were being elected, for example in a school's 'class president' election, I would use the singular as only one election is being held:

John is running against Mary in this year's Class President election.

However if we're talking on a broader scale where multiple people are being elected at once, such as if each population area is being allowed to vote for their representative and multiple elections are occurring at once, I would then use the plural:

The swing-vote states are expected to have high early-voting attendance in this year's elections.


As you mentioned the term general election in comments, I'd like to address that as well. From Wikipedia:

In a parliamentary system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. The term is usually used to refer to elections held for a nation's primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.

In presidential systems, the term refers to a regularly scheduled election where both the president, and either "a class" of or all members of the national legislature are elected at the same time. A general election day may also include elections for local officials.

This seems a rather clear explanation, which is backed up by The Free Dictionary in case we have cause to distrust wikipedia:

general election n.

An election involving all or most constituencies of a state or nation in the choice of candidates.

In this case I think the same rule would apply as for a standard election, just on a different scale. When referring to a single general election (which we know to be composed of multiple traditional elections), I would use the singular:

This year's general election is quite controversial.

But when referring to multiple general elections, I would use the plural:

The last three general elections have gone the way of a single party; I hope this year we will have some change.

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You could use either election or elections when referring to the parliamentary election, depending on whether your focus is on the aggregate process or its several components, instances, or results.

In a similar way, I could speak of my purchase this afternoon (referring to the overall transaction), or of my purchases (referring to the individual products which are bought), pointing to the same groceries.


In referring to a particular election of the Italian president, I would generally use the singular election, because we are referring to a solitary event. We could just as easily refer to Italy's February 2013 parliamentary election in the singular if we treat the entire process as a single event.

On the other hand, if one considers a parliamentary election as the cumulation of hundreds of elections for individual members, speaking of the February 2013 parliamentary elections comes quite naturally. The plural also works if there are multiple offices at stake, as in the U.S., which had around 513,200 directly elected government officials in 1992 (the last year in which the Census Bureau attempted to tabulate a total). When everyone from president down to the proverbial town dogcatcher is on the ballot, using the plural seems more than appropriate.

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    +1 purely for that intriguing link to "elected dogcatchers" in the last sentence! Actually, the first sentence is also good - but to me, I vote in elections if I vote separately for national and local representatives, even if they're held on the same day using the same polling office (to keep costs down). An election is one process where I cast one vote; if I cast more than one vote (for whatever reason), I'd probably say I'd participated in elections plural. – FumbleFingers Mar 28 '13 at 2:45
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The electoral process is an exercise of the right of suffrage. Therefore, the process should be considered from the viewpoint of the electorate. When referring to a choice of leaders being made by the general citizenry, it is better to use "elections," as a mass noun. Consequently, it should carry a singular verb. (e.g., The 2016 elections was orderly and peaceful). When in doubt, play it by ear; if it sounds right, then it is.

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  • Maybe so, but it would be elections were not elections was. – Chenmunka May 17 '16 at 8:31

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