1. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Special needs

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Poziga, Jun 25, 2014.

    Hello.

    My mom is writing a presentation in English and she stumbled upon a problem with which I can't help her so I hope one of you guys might help us solve the issue. :)

    The sentence: Special needs is not an illness.

    Problem: we are not sure whether is Special needs is... or Special needs are...

    Is the singular form correct or the plural one? I am for singular form, I have a feeling Special needs is a plural noun, but I am not sure.

    Thanks. :)
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm fairly sure it's plural, so your sentence would read "Special needs are not illnesses."
     
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  3. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Great, thank you. :)
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Just to confirm, here's the definition from Merriam-Webster:
    So yeah, it's plural.
     
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  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would be tempted to say

    'Special needs' is not an illness.

    Referring to the blanket terminology and collective attitude.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2014
  6. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Heh, maybe it's our slavic feeling. :p
     
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  7. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I agree, it's plural. There are more than one types of special needs.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on context. Given the proposed sentence: "Special needs is not an illness" the term "special needs" is being used to describe a category, hence singular is correct. However, if you were to address the special needs of a group of people, the plural would be correct: "The special needs of our students are professionally addressed by our therapists."
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
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  9. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    "Special needs are disorders that require attention, not illnesses that require cures."

    I was with the singular camp until I considered the above!

    Funny how language does that to you!
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The problem I think people are having is 'special needs' is not only a noun, it can also be an adjective. If you have special needs, it's plural. If you are a person with special needs, it's plural. But if you have a group of special needs children, it's an adjective. And in @EdFromNY's example it can be used as a noun but that is under specific circumstances, describing a 'group', a category as he says, aka an adjective or more precisely and adjectival clause I believe, or something like that.

    I should probably stop here, I'm confusing myself. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
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  11. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    And that therein, lies the problem. It's all to do with the context. Do you also sometimes think that things just "sound" wrong?
     
  12. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem is there's no context. This sentence "Special needs is/are not an illness" was used in presentation just as a phrase, slogan.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Yes. I get into problems as well because grammar has a certain logic to it. So it was clear to me 'special needs' was being used as an adjective. But when you use it as the name of a group, is it a noun or an adjective? o_O It's both, ... sort of, ... but I'm sure there are rules addressing names of groups and whether they are plural or not when the name is plural.

    Logically, in my brain, it's still an adjective with an unspoken noun. In the sentence, "Special needs is not an illness", one can be referring to the label: The label, [special needs] is not an illness [label]. In that sentence I believe single quotes might be needed. Otherwise it would be, "Special needs are not illnesses."
     
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  14. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    If you are referring to special needs as a group, would both words then need to be capitalized??

    Special Needs is not an illness.
    or
    'Special Needs' is not an illness.

    I suppose the other way to look at it would be to itemise the special needs, if you say just one, then it's singular:

    Asperger's is not an illness.

    Whereas if you listed more than one, it would be plural:

    Asperger's, ADHD and Dyspraxia are not illnesses.

    o_O
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It can be a proper name, for example if it refers to a specific named group: Special Needs Parents. But much more often it is a category and not capitalized.
     
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  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That is correct because you are considering a plurality of needs rather than special needs as a single category.
     

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