Love or loves?
January 3, 2010 4:32 PM   Subscribe

What is the plural form of the noun "love"?

My friend and I are arguing on Facebook. He says "love" and "loves" are both acceptable, I think it's only "loves."

Google's first hit on "plural love" doesn't even mention the -s as an option and claims that "love" is the only plural, which it pretty obviously isn't. Another hit claims that I'm right.

So, who's right? He says, "there are different kinds of love, just like there are different kinds of treeS." Since trees is plural, and in the same position as love, is love plural in that case? I think there's something fishy grammatically there, though, since "kinds" is the subject. I'm not even sure what part of speech "trees/love" are in that sentence. Objects of a preposition?

Lastly, I think "there are different kinds of tree" works decently, anyway, even without the s. It's a little awkward, and I'd probably add the s anyway, but doesn't it at least work?

tl;dr - Is it "love" or "loves" or both?
posted by papayaninja to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Loves is a verb.

There are different kinds of love. They are in love. They love cookies. He loves cookies more than he loves her.
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2010


If love was an apple.. and you have lots of them, then they would be apples.

Love = One Person
Loves = Multiple Persons.

at least in my book.
posted by royalsong at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of "loves" used as a noun, only "love".
posted by wongcorgi at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2010


I have never in my life heard "loves" as a plural that I can recall. I do believe it is "love". I think the problem is that love is an abstract idea, and therefore is hard to imagine as some kind of concrete thing that can be divided into singular or plural.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:36 PM on January 3, 2010


Depends on the context(s). "I have two loves," meaning I love two people, gets the S. "There are different kinds of love," meaning different takes on the concept of love, doesn't get the S.

(I think context trumps your "in the same position" argument. The parts of speech wouldn't be relevant.)
posted by scratch at 4:36 PM on January 3, 2010


"He is a man of many loves."

I can't imagine how it would work without the "s".
posted by hermitosis at 4:37 PM on January 3, 2010


Ah, scratch is right. I didn't think of that context. Love is tricky.
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:37 PM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or, what scratch and hermitosis said. That isn't something you hear often but it's definitely valid.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:39 PM on January 3, 2010


"There are different kinds of love," meaning different takes on the concept of love, doesn't get the S.

This is not a plural use of the word "love". It is a plural use of the word "kind".
posted by hermitosis at 4:39 PM on January 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've always used "loves" in the rare cases of needing a plural, as in "The Many Loves of Dobbie Gillis"
posted by justkevin at 4:40 PM on January 3, 2010


Although in that case, it's referring to something that you love, and not the abstract idea of love.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:40 PM on January 3, 2010


I think in the context you're talking about above, love is a mass noun, instead of a count noun. That is, you sort of can't have a singular of it.

Similar example: dirt. You can have lots of dirt, but it's still dirt. You can't, in that way, have a single "dirt". However, if you are talking about say... Dirt 1 and Dirt 2, that are different kinds of dirt, you could say you have 2 dirts.
posted by brainmouse at 4:45 PM on January 3, 2010


The OED lists at least 6 separate entries for the noun 'love' that relate to the sense you both are referring to. They are all very similar, but their differences lend themselves to separate grammatical rules and allowances. You and your friend aren't attuning to the same entry. I suspect that you are thinking of love as in a mass, non-countable entity (like milk, or hope, etc.) and your friend is thinking of love as in a thing contained in or part of a person (or the person itself), discrete and countable, like trees, or wishes, or hopes, etc.)

You're both right for yourselves and wrong for each other. Love/s is/are like that.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:48 PM on January 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


"loves of my life"- no option.
posted by kch at 4:48 PM on January 3, 2010


brainmouse has it.
posted by metahawk at 4:49 PM on January 3, 2010


Since trees is plural, and in the same position as love, is love plural in that case?

No, and in fact, he should have correctly said, "There are different kinds of love, just like there are different kinds of tree."
posted by hermitosis at 4:51 PM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The short answer is that it's both. Love as an abstract noun and love as a count noun are distinct uses, and the latter (like most typical count nouns) has a regular plural form in "loves". The OED has plentiful citations for both forms going back hundreds of years; it's an old word, and the OED entries for both noun and verb forms are very long and very detailed.

English is flexible enough that you can sanely produce even a -s plural of the abstract form if you want to, though it's going to come off as more contrived than the more common uses above.
posted by cortex at 4:55 PM on January 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hear love as a plural noun all the time and have seen it in English literature going back centuries.

Sample: "Of all my life's passions and loves, only one was true . . ."
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:57 PM on January 3, 2010


Depends if you're a linguistic prescriptivist or a descriptivist. If your the latter, you can pluralize anything because that's how language works. If you're the former, then you just haven't done any research on the history of language to know any better ^_~
posted by Quarter Pincher at 5:16 PM on January 3, 2010


You can definitely have two or more loves.

i.e. I've had two great loves in my life. My husband and chocolate.
posted by mittenbex at 5:41 PM on January 3, 2010


For the use of "love" as "object of affection", eg, "My great loves are music and mathematics", it seems obvious to me that the plural is "loves".

For the use of "love" as "mental state or attitude", you wouldn't normally pluralize it, as Hermitosis et al point out, because you'd use the phrase "kinds of love" and "kind" would be the word to pluralize. But you could leave that off if you wanted to, I guess, and say something like "Agape is love, filios is love, and eros is love; the last one is sexual but the first two loves are what we'd call Platonic"1. That sounds a bit weird to my ear but not actually wrong.

1Probably not actually a good description of those concepts, but work with me here
posted by hattifattener at 5:52 PM on January 3, 2010


No, and in fact, he should have correctly said, "There are different kinds of love, just like there are different kinds of tree."

There is virtually no usage that supports this.
posted by kosmonaut at 6:08 PM on January 3, 2010


Yes, there is. There are different kinds of usage, just like there are different kinds of love.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:25 PM on January 3, 2010


C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves. In this case he meant four kinds of love (i.e. those corresponding to four different Greek words).
posted by zompist at 6:29 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Loves" is often used as a plural in English. In addition to "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" and The Four Loves, there's also the autobiography My Life and Loves by Frank Harris and the play Many Loves by William Carlos Williams.

If your friend thinks he knows more about English than C.S. Lewis and William Carlos Williams, let alone Max Schulman and Frank Harris, he thinks wrong.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:39 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a slightly different context, a lot of my friends refer to affectionate animal companions as loves. In that sense, it works as a plural too.
posted by rhiannon at 9:09 PM on January 3, 2010


iamkimiam: different kinds of cake, different breeds of cat, different types of tea, different shades of color... in correctly formed sentences, there should be literally only usage that supports this.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 5:47 AM on January 4, 2010


If the French can do it, I say, why not we?
posted by IndigoJones at 12:09 PM on January 4, 2010


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