Piles of rubbles / piles of rubble

11

What were once glorious forts are now nothing but piles of rubble.

Which is the correct phrase to use here? Is it "piles of rubble" or "piles of rubbles"? Pile of rubble is perhaps wrong as it's forts about which we are talking but do I need to make rubble plural too or is it fine to use the singular form? The doubt arose when I read the plural form being used here:

Most parts of the ruin are just piles of rubbles - Picture of Lelu Island, Kosrae

user212388

Posted 2017-08-16T10:58:03.510

Reputation: 2 325

I would've only used 'rubble' in the second example: Most parts of the ruin are just rubble. – mcalex – 2017-08-17T08:31:18.073

Answers

19

The word "pile" is a countable noun, and "rubble" is an uncountable noun.

So you can say "a pile of rubble" and "piles of rubble", but you cannot say "a pile of rubbles" and "piles of rubbles".

Khan

Posted 2017-08-16T10:58:03.510

Reputation: 26 261

3

Saying "you cannot say" is a little too strong for my tastes. I'd agree that it's not necessary, that it's uncommon and perhaps even awkward, but it's not necessarily wrong, either. For example, a quote from a 2014 sociogogy textbook: They believed that the new national culture .. would be built on the rubbles of the pre-revolutionary ethnic cultures.

– J.R. – 2017-08-16T15:05:02.023

Moreover, Wiktionary indicates rubble can be countable or uncountable.

– J.R. – 2017-08-16T15:13:35.197

4

@J.R. So far as I can tell, the plural is reserved for the bran definition, and possibly a specialist mining definition; it does not seem to be used for the more common meaning of the word. This is how the OED lists it, and how I have always heard it used. Note that your textbook example is by a Belgian scientist. (Of course, one can pluralize any mass noun, anytime; it just won't necessarily "sound right".)

– 1006a – 2017-08-16T16:09:39.570

9Even purely uncountable nouns can be pluralized if you're talking about different types. e.g. You would normally say "piles of sand", but "The landscaping company had piles of sands from around the world" isn't wrong. It'd be interpreted as "The landscaping company had piles of (different types of sand) from around the world". – R.M. – 2017-08-16T16:10:37.043

@R.M. - Spot on. Back in 2012, ELU had a similar discussion over the word equipments.

– J.R. – 2017-08-16T19:57:11.097

The answer ought to be edited. You can say piles of rubbles just like you can cups of coffees, and piles of sands, as per R.M. – green_ideas – 2017-08-22T21:48:36.943

1

If you say 'piles of rubbles'; it is acceptable if you are describing different types of rubble. Consider then if you say sheep wool or sheep wools, are you talking number or style (can a singular sheep produce multiple wools?)

Daniel White

Posted 2017-08-16T10:58:03.510

Reputation: 5