Have you ever wondered why some people say, “Do you like sport?”
while others say, “Do you like sports?”
Which is correct? Or are both correct? Well this is another instance of the differences between the way the words are used by speakers of American English and those of British English.
It’s the same with maths or math. Both of these are abbreviations of the word mathematics. In British English it’s thought more sensible to say maths to abbreviate MATHematicS. As a British national it always annoys me when I’m typing ‘maths’ on my laptop and the default US English spell checker will indicate an error and suggest I change it to ‘math’. But actually, it’s equally sensible just to say ‘math’.
However, mathematics is a single subject or discipline whereas there are lots of different sports. So let’s examine the actual meanings and application of ‘sport’ and ‘sports.’
Sport is a noun which can be countable or uncountable. As a countable noun it means a game, competition or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to rules; it can be played professionally or just for entertainment and/or exercise.
- My favourite sport is tennis [singular]
- Football, cricket and hockey are all team sports. [plural]
As an uncountable noun it means all types of physical activity that people do to keep healthy or for enjoyment. It can also be used to refer to sport as a concept or to talk in general terms.
Here are some example sentences:
- There’s too much sport on TV these days.
- Sara’s not especially interested in sport.
Sports is an adjective meaning something that is related to sport, such as
sports day; sports science; sports presenter; sports club(s); sports pages (of a newspaper or website); sports culture etc.
All ok so far? Not too confusing?
Well, the confusing thing is the difference in the use of the words between British and American English. Users of American English more often use the term ‘sports’ in many cases where in British English we would say ‘sport.’
- I love watching sport on TV. [British English]
- I love watching sports on TV. [American English]
- All children should have the chance to play sport. [British English]
- All children should have the chance to play sports. [American English]
So what do we learn from this? Well, basically, both are correct! Sorry if you were expecting a more definite answer but it simply depends on where you come from or who taught you. If you’re from a non-English speaking country and are learning English as a second language then don’t worry because both versions are acceptable and will be fully understood.
If you want to learn more sport-related vocabulary, [or sports-related, whichever you prefer] then check out our great new course, Talking About Sport, part of a series of vocabulary and conversation courses brought to you from all of us here at Red Fox Education.
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