Streets have no name or nameS?


Which is correct, "Streets have no name" or "Streets have no names"? I thought an "S" was needed but when I googled the two, the singular has a lot more hits.


Posted 2014-09-10T02:28:36.823

Reputation: 41

Are you concerned about grammar in that or talking about the lyrics? – Maulik V – 2014-09-10T05:30:43.883

They're both okay. – snailplane – 2014-09-12T21:01:50.730



Prisoners in this gulag have no name. They are assigned a number.

Let's talk about the new J17 Phantom fighter jet. These jets have no instrument panel. instead, the pilot's brain is directly connected to the central computer.

The plural noun (prisoners, jets) in the context of the statement, refers to a class or a type -- a set of things that have something in common. A singular attribute (name, number, panel) is called for when describing the (singular) class.

In the question, "the streets" means "the streets in this place" -- that is the particular class.


Posted 2014-09-10T02:28:36.823

Reputation: 116 610


I found this page while suddenly thinking the same thing after knowing the song for decades. I think it's grammatically-correct because it didn't stand out as wrong all this time.

When you think of "streets" as a group of streets that ALL lack a name, "streets" can be seen as a singular entity, not one street in particular. Therefore, a singular description of their namelessness seems valid.


Posted 2014-09-10T02:28:36.823

Reputation: 101


"The streets have no name" is correct.

Yes, there is more than one street, so "streets" is plural, but each street only has one name each.

Interestingly, this wouldn't matter if you didn't bring numbers into it. It would be correct to say:

"The streets have names"


"None of the streets have names".

But because you have said "no name", you are talking about how many names they have ("no" is substituting as the number zero in this context).

To be fair, most native speakers would equally accept "the streets have no names" and possibly even say it, but it is technically wrong because it is ambiguous. It allows for the meaning that streets could have more than one name. But this would almost never be questioned because everybody knows that streets only have one name.

There would be no such issue saying...

The women here have no children.

...because it is reasonable that a woman could have more than one child.


Posted 2014-09-10T02:28:36.823

Reputation: 41 381


"Where the Streets Have No Name" is the title of a song by U2. The Wall Street Journal reports a rumor that the title refers to Managua. Other cities in Nicaragua and Costa Rica also have this issue:

"Where the streets lack names" or "Where the streets are unnamed" sound more natural to my (American) ear -- perhaps because I was already a teenager by the time this song came out.

I assume that U2 chose "have no name" for poetic reasons. They rhymed "name" with "flame". "[Having] no name" sounds like a (possibly desirable) finished state. On the other hand, "lack names" or "are unnamed" imply that the streets should have names, and are temporarily unnamed.


Posted 2014-09-10T02:28:36.823

Reputation: 23 316

Most streets in Japan have no names as well. – 200_success – 2014-09-10T04:30:53.957


If it's a song, then minor questionable grammar like that is understandable. Songs and poems often vary from standard grammar to get a desired rhyme or rhythm.

If it was said as an ordinary statement in conversation, I would understand "The streets have no name" to mean that the speaker expected there to be one name for all the streets. Without any other context, I'd probably think he meant that they don't have a word in their language that means "street" or that the people do not use that word to refer to these particular streets. Or more likely I'd think that he meant "The streets have no names", that is, he expects each street to have a name -- "Main Street", "Elm Street", whatever -- but they don't.


Posted 2014-09-10T02:28:36.823

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