21

In Italian, nevi (the plural of neve, "snow") is used in some expressions, such as l'uomo delle nevi (a.k.a. Yeti), and le nevi dei Pirenei. (The last expression is referring to the Pyrenees, but I could use it when referring to any mountain belt.)

Is snows ever used as noun (even if in set phrases), or is it never used as noun?

  • 3
    You can browse through several instances of snows being used as a noun in these results. It seems like snows is a way of saying "the snow from several snowstorms." – J.R. Jan 30 '13 at 3:52
  • Snows also means "a variety of landscapes covered with snow"; I think this its sense in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro". Compare "the sands of Africa" in @Caleb's answer. Snows (plural) is employed to emphasize that one is speaking of terrain, not precipitation. – StoneyB Feb 9 '13 at 11:48
10

'Snow' is what is called a 'mass noun'. Like 'water' or 'traffic', it already describes a collection of things (a mass) and so there isn't likely a number of such items, just some of it.

'The snow that fell overnight was deep' is correct.

'The snows that fell overnight were deep' is incorrect (or poetic)

You can however talk about multiple instances of water, 'the glasses of water' which can be said grammatically as 'the waters in those glasses' but that is a strange transformation, almost poetic, and surely to be avoided in speech and most writing.

The same goes for 'snow'.

'The snows that fell in each of the towns were deep.'

works and occurs, but is a somewhat strange way to say it. One would more likely reword it to avoid the strange plural.

'The snow that fell in each of the towns was deep.'

or to emphasize that a snowfall occurred in a number of towns, and though the depth was different in each one, the amounts were all deep.

'The different amounts of snow in the towns were all deep.'

sounds much better. So the answer is yes, 'snows' can be used as a plural noun but it is not common and is not natural sounding. So if you are translating from a language with plural snow, you should reword to avoid the plural.

For a comparison here is the google nGram comparing 'the snow' and 'the snows':

enter image description here

  • 1
    Rains and waters can also be used as nouns. – Spare Oom Jan 30 '13 at 21:54
12

Yes, "snows" can be used just like this in English. A classic of English literature is Hemingway's story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro".

6

Yes, snows may be used as a noun.

However, when it is, it is not simply the plural of snow. Snow is itself a "mass noun", meaning a singular form that refers to a large collection of small things. The plural refers to episodes or events involving snow. In other words, snows refers to several instances of "snow falls".

The heavy snows on the north side of the mountain frequently cause avalanches.

A similar case is a word like sand, where the singular noun for actually refers to a large collection of grains of sand, but you could refer to "the barren sands of Africa" and people will understand various different deserts full of sand rather than just one.

4

Yes, it is an English word. It is occasionally used in the way that Mark Beadles described. However it is usually used in sentences such as, "It usually snows between November and March."

See Google Ngram Viewer: snows, it snows, the snows, of snows:

Ngram

  • I expected it snows to be used more than the snows, but then I thought it snows could be used with an adverb, and that is not accounted from the Ngram. – kiamlaluno Jan 29 '13 at 3:49
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    Mind you, this is "snows" the present-tense singular of the verb "to snow", not the "plural of the word snow" as @kiamlaluno originally asked. Kiamlaluno, if this is what you are asking you should edit your question to be more clear. Your title asks about "snows" (which is ambiguous) but your question asks about the verb, and in English they happen to have the same form. – Mark Beadles Jan 29 '13 at 12:20
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    The ngram you've chosen doesn't support what you say - they way you have it constructed, it shows that "the snows" is more common than "it snows". – Mark Beadles Jan 29 '13 at 12:23
  • @MarkBeadles You are correct; it's my fault that I didn't precisate that. I thought that saying "the plural of snow" would make clear I was speaking of a noun. – kiamlaluno Jan 29 '13 at 12:58
  • @MarkBeadles That is because other words usually occur between it and snows. For example, sometimes, usually, often, frequently, occasionally_, etc. Additionally, "it snows" returns about 3 times as many Google results as "the snows". – ctype.h Jan 29 '13 at 15:37
4

Most translations of François Villon’s poem, “Ballade des dames du temps jadis”, use snows in the refrain, where “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan” becomes “But where are the snows of yesteryear?”

2

"Snows" would be plural, and therefore a noun, when referring to INSTANCES of "snowing."

Such "instances" may take place on separate days, "the SNOWS of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday," or in different places, the SNOWS of New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia."

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