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Hi guys,

When asking a person what his/her favorite color is, I can simply say: What is your favorite color? And to answer that question is also pretty straight forward: My favorite color is green/blue/brown...etc. since colors are uncountable nouns and there's no trouble in deciding whether or not to use the plural forms but I found it quite tricky when asking about something that is countable. e.g. Should it be: What is your favorite animal? OR What are your favorite animals? It is even trickier to answer that question:

If someone asked me:

What is your favorite animal?

I'd have problems deciding the correct answer out of the possible ones:

My favorite animal is dog.

My favorite animals are dogs. (Then I'd think, why would I use the plural form when the person used the singular form to ask the question. It just doesn't feel right.)

My favorite animal is dogs.

I asked a friend of mine, who is a native speaker of English. He said he'd reply: My favorite type of animal are dogs. I then asked why use "are" when "type" is singular. He couldn't explain it.

I also have little problems with the following sentences recently. Again, it's concerning whether or not to use the plural forms:

Q: What shapes are they?

A: They are circles.

My question is: If all the objects the question is asking about are of the same shape, e.g. they are all circles, with no exceptions. Why does the question use "shapes", as it seems to suggest that the objects are of different shapes and the inquirer is expecting an answer like: They are circles and squares. Also, is it common to give answers such as:

They are a circle and a square.

They are one circle and two squares. (To give the answer with quantities added, even though not asked)

They are a circle and squares. (With singular and plural both existing in an answer)

English... What a language!
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chenyinchengHi guys,

When asking a person what his/her favorite color is, I can simply say: What is your favorite color? And to answer that question is also pretty straight forward: My favorite color is green/blue/brown...etc. since colors are uncountable nouns and there's no trouble in deciding whether or not to use the plural forms but I found it quite tricky when asking about something that is countable. e.g. Should it be: What is your favorite animal? OR What are your favorite animals? It is even trickier to answer that question:

If someone asked me:

What is your favorite animal?

I'd have problems deciding the correct answer out of the possible ones:

My favorite animal is dog.

My favorite animals are dogs. (Then I'd think, why would I use the plural form when the person used the singular form to ask the question. It just doesn't feel right.)

My favorite animal is dogs.

I asked a friend of mine, who is a native speaker of English. He said he'd reply: My favorite type of animal are dogs. I then asked why use "are" when "type" is singular. He couldn't explain it.

In asking the question, you may choose singular or plural accordingly as you want the respondant to give you a single favorite or several favorites.

When you ask for a favorite species (singular), the difficulty lies in answering "dog," or "horse;" because it sounds like you're talking about dinner.
The correct answer would be, "My favorite animal is the dog." But this sounds very snooty.
"My favorite animal is dogs" is clearly ungrammatical. So the alert respondant replies, "My favorite animals are dogs," or simply, "I like dogs," in order to avoid the two aforementioned offenses.

I also have little problems with the following sentences recently. Again, it's concerning whether or not to use the plural forms:

Q: What shapes are they?

A: They are circles.

I don't find this one offensive. "Here is a box of shapes. What do you see in there?"

My question is: If all the objects the question is asking about are of the same shape, e.g. they are all circles, with no exceptions. Why does the question use "shapes", as it seems to suggest that the objects are of different shapes and the inquirer is expecting an answer like: They are circles and squares. Also, is it common to give answers such as:

They are a circle and a square.

They are one circle and two squares. (To give the answer with quantities added, even though not asked)

They are a circle and squares. (With singular and plural both existing in an answer)

Again, the alert respondant seeks to avoid an awkward answer.
Perhaps the questioner didn't realize that different shapes were represented.
Colors and shapes present the same problem.
"What color(s) / shape(s) are they?" If the questioner knows there are multiple colors/shapes, he should probably use the plural; but I don't believe it's incorrect to say, casually, "what color are they," expecting an answer, "Some are red and some are green," or even "red and green." In a formal situation, the second answer would naturally be avoided.

English... What a language!

chenyincheng My favorite color is green/blue/brown...
Italicized ones are adjectives, not nouns.
chenyincheng Should it be: What is your favorite animal? OR What are your favorite animals?
Both are correct since you are asking for just one animal or some of them.
chenyinchengMy favorite animal is a dog.
First of all the basics of articles should be taken into consideration. Don't leave singular countable noun without article.
chenyinchengI asked a friend of mine, who is a native speaker of English. He said he'd reply: My favorite type of animal are dogs. I then asked why use "are" when "type" is singular. He couldn't explain it.
It's subliminal. It might be so because type implies an amount of something in general, in other words it's a collective noun. That's why it's more natural, I suppose.
chenyinchengI also have little problems with the following sentences recently. Again, it's concerning whether or not to use the plural forms:

Q: What shape are they of?

A: They are round.
The question is about shape. The shape is described by adjective, not a noun. It sounds more natural to me. Moreover, I will never make such a question.
chenyinchengThey are a circle and a square.
chenyinchengThey are a circle and a square. OK.

They are one circle and two squares. (To give the answer with quantities added, even though not asked) OK.

They are a/one circle and squares. (With singular and plural both existing in the answer). OK.

.
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Hi Avangi. We really need kind of an alert when the answer has been given. Please, correct me if I'm wrong in my conclusions. Thank you in advance. Emotion: wink
I don't see any solution. I'm sure we were each working on this for fifteen or twenty minutes without being aware of the other. We actually posted only three minutes apart. It could have gone either way! Emotion: big smile

BTW, the colors are also nouns.
All the blues and the greens have been recently cleaned (Hey, Jesse)

Edit. Sorry. Ten minutes apart.

I guess it's only a big deal when the post is really long. But how often does that happen?

Next time, let me know! Emotion: hmm
Fandorin
chenyincheng My favorite color is green/blue/brown...
Italicized ones are adjectives, not nouns.
No. The favorite color is not colored green. It is green. (noun)

Compare:

I dislike wine.
I dislike green.

Contrast:

My coat is green. [The coat is colored green. (adjective)]

This is of little consequence in your discussion, but I thought I'd point it out.

Emotion: smile

CJ
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Thank you for explaining, Avangi! So you mean when answering a question, we may choose to change singular or plural to fit the situation, is that what you were saying? For example:

A: What is your favorite color?

B: Well. Blue and purple are both my favorite colors.

A: What is your favorite animal?

B: My favorite animals are dogs.
Yes, that's correct. The agreement of subject and verb takes precedence over "number agreement" in answering the question.
AvangiYes, that's correct. The agreement of subject and verb takes precedence over "number agreement" in answering the question.

I see. Thank you very much!
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