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Plural of “insurance”?

I heard an ad on the radio recently for a company that performs medical procedures. At the end they said “We accept all major insurances.” That didn’t sound quite right to me, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the plural of the word “insurance”. If it were me, I would’ve said “We accept all major insurance plans.” Am I right that there is no plural form of the word?

On a related note, I’ve heard, mostly on TV news shows, “damages” a lot. I know that the word exists, meaning a monetary judgement awarded by a court, but they used it when they meant “damage”. For example, “Due to the ice storm, many damages were done to homes,” or “The car suffered severe damages from the accident.” This is improper usage, correct?

  • June 9, 2009
  • Posted by egkg
  • Filed in Grammar

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As to the use of damage/damages, I agree with you. They are two different words, referring to different things though they are related, i.e. damages could well arise from damage incurred by a party.

legaltranslator June 10, 2009, 6:58pm

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The OED has cites for "insurances" from the 1800s. There are cites for "damanges" meaning "injury" up until 1771. So neither seems to be a modern use.

goofy June 11, 2009, 8:05am

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insurance is noncountable n. therefore it cannot be used in plural f

caes June 14, 2009, 1:29pm

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"Damages" is widely used in legal and insurance documents, presenting a confusing situation to people outside the circle. It is in modern use, as a jargon, if I may say so.

legaltranslator June 15, 2009, 6:21pm

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I did a research with Google, only to find that "insurances" are not uncommon.

Cf1: Established in 1911 to provide fire insurance for Catholic churches, Catholic Church Insurances has evolved primarily to meet the changing needs of Catholic ...

a page titled "how to save money: insurances" at the Website of Guardian:

legaltranslator June 15, 2009, 6:26pm

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Wow, I love this forum. I agree that 'damages' is incorrect in the context you cite.
I tutor English and have come across this kind of problem many times. It is like the "troop" issue I just came across on this site- people don't any longer seem to understand certain usages anymore, which is troubling to me since I have understood most usage issue by instinct, an instinct developed by rabid reading. I am then left to doing research to justify my reactions to various usages.
This problem you mention echoes for me the irritation I feel every time I hear the infamous Sotomayor quote about a "a Latina women with her rich experiences..." um, in this context, it should be experience. A sum total of events in this larger context is her life experience, not her life "experiences."
I have the urge to go nuts now that I have found this site, so I I have to say that a advertisement for "lineal feet" (of tile or carpet or something, I can't remember) instead of "linear feet."
Generally when I mentioned issues like this bother me, I am treated as an insane person who wishes to oppress others, even in English circles. It's nice that you bring up usage issues in a nice way... I personally will not change established usages for fairly new changes in the language when I tutor, so I am a "meanie", and any website I had on these issues would open me up for English Nazi charges, and I would soon be run from the country.
Nice site.

millerresponsible June 15, 2009, 6:47pm

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I apologize for the bad usage in that email.
I didn't edit before I sent send.
That is Karma for grammar meanies.

millerresponsible June 15, 2009, 6:48pm

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One more. I did a search on lineal vs linear and they are both accepted usage.
However, last week was the first time I had heard the former in my life.
OK, by now.

millerresponsible June 15, 2009, 6:51pm

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I mean bye. Bye now.

millerresponsible June 15, 2009, 6:51pm

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Insurance is indeed noncountable, but "insurances" is being used in the provided example ("we accept all major insurances") to indicate different companies rather than a plural of "insurance" (a more correct wording might be "we accept insurance from all major insurance companies," but that gets rather cumbersome). When speaking of multiples of insurance, one correct way to refer to them would be "We have several types of insurance, including health, fire, auto, and boat."

dms726 June 17, 2009, 10:35am

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"Lineal" is indeed a word, but it does not mean the same thing as "linear." It means "pertaining to a lineage." "Lineal feet" is indeed incorrect (or, at best, unidiomatic).

Mind you, even "linear feet" seems to me like unnecessary redundancy (like "wooden trees"), except, perhaps, in the unlikely event that the context did not make it clear that the reference was to units of length rather than to the things on the ends of legs. All feet, in the sense of units of length, are linear, so why not just say "feet"?

nigel June 21, 2009, 2:03am

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Nigel, Meriam-Webster seems to think that lineal and linear are the same thing:

Pronunciation: \?li-n?-?l\
Function: adjective
Date: 14th century
1: linear
2: composed of or arranged in lines
3 a: consisting of or being in a direct male or female line of ancestry — compare collateral 2 b: relating to or derived from ancestors : hereditary c: descended in a direct line
4 a: belonging to one lineage b: of, relating to, or dealing with a lineage

With regard to Bill's specific example (lineal "feet of tile or carpet..."), those things are very often thought of in square feet, so I think making the distinction is valid.

egkg June 21, 2009, 6:38am

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It is beyond doubt that the language belongs to the people. What remains in dispute is <i>which</i> people. For example, American misspelling of words like "colour" and "catalogue" are and always will be errors while English is so named, because the <i>English</i> language belongs to the <i>English</i> people. You can tell by the way it has their name written on it.

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, the language belongs to whoever is in the best position to influence widespread use. A wealthy man called Noah Webster had a printing press, and used it to propagate his notions of how words ought to be spelt. This is the origin of most of "standard" American misspellings: Webster deliberately caused language drift because he despised the English.

The fact that 300,000,000 Americans think colour is spelt "color" does not make it so. Webster lied to you. Believing and repeating a lie does not make it true, it just makes you look silly.

peterw June 27, 2009, 7:42pm

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Peter: by that logic, English doesn't belong to English speakers, it belongs to the descendents of the people who live in Schleswig-Holstein, the *angle* of land that the Angles and Saxons came from, and which is where the words "English" and "England" originate. Also, the French language doesn't belong to French speakers, because the word "French" is derived from the word "Frank", and the Franks didn't speak French, they spoke a Germanic language.

goofy June 29, 2009, 5:33am

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Well, at least you read it. At a level I was being [trying to be] funny.

Regarding your point about the Franks speaking a teutonic language that did not become recognisable French until it crossbred with Latin, while this is demonstrably true, I don't think it's admissible to the argument because the situation changed qualitatively with the advent of mass printing.

There really <i>were</i> no standard spellings prior to the introduction of the press. One could argue that such standardisation only came about <i>because</i> a small number of wealthy individuals who tended to keep company were able to produce most of the books.

I am well aware that many of the English spellings are patently absurd. This is most evident in names, of course: Featherstonehaugh being pronounced "Fanshaw". I am quick to admit that -ize follows the original greek root more closely than -ise, and so forth, but it's pretty silly to call it "English" and then insist on not using English spelling.

And as for "aluminum"...

Any chemist can tell you that -ium denotes a metal, and is therefore the only possible ending. Helium? Errr....pass? It's inert anyway, so lets just look the other way.

peterw June 29, 2009, 3:15pm

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French is not a Germanic language that crossbred with Latin. My point was that the word "French" comes from "Frank", and the Franks didn't speak French or a language that later became French. It's silly to argue that the *name of the language* has any bearing on spelling or... anything at all, really. There are different kinds of Englishes, and American English is one kind, and British English is another kind.

As for "aluminum"... chemists don't decide how words are used, speech communities do.

goofy June 29, 2009, 7:47pm

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Lineal relates to linage, regardless of any reference material that states otherwise. Let's stick to our guns....meanies or not.

hollerinloud July 2, 2009, 1:25pm

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Have it your way, oh humourless one.

peterw July 3, 2009, 12:02am

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I'm with EGKG, who rightly trusts his/her ear: "Insurances" in this context is off. Insurance plans, or insurance carriers, would not be cumbersome. Perhaps the use of "assurances," which is correct in the right context, leads to a bad generalization.

On the other hand, trusting only the ear that never works with an eye is the biggest problem we have with deteriorating usage, especially when the whole phrase as heard is taken in as an idiomatic meaning unit and not analyzed word by word for sense. I've got about 50% ESL students, and their papers always come in with things like "once and a while." (I think that error form is where we got "spitting image" from . . . )

chironsdaughter July 6, 2009, 11:59am

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I have a great sense of humor. Nearly everyday I laugh at individuals who say lineal, when they mean linear, or at those who write "humourless" one, when they actually mean humorless one....that is, unless the writer is a Brit or someone who has been educated in the UK or one or more of her territories. Of course, then I don't laugh; I merely suggest to the writer that he should conform to American English. Are you a Brit Peter?

hollerinloud July 6, 2009, 12:01pm

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Si cinquante millions de Français pensent que la merde est une délicatesse, ils sont tous faux.


peterw July 6, 2009, 2:02pm

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caes hit the nail on the head (hope you have at least "one insurance" that will cover your injury), but perhaps some explanation is called for.

Among nouns, some refer to things that are countable, e.g., I own two goats, three pigs, and a [indefinite article indicating a single, non-specific example] partridge in a pear tree. Other nouns refer to this or that thing which cannot itself be counted; water, work, information, rice, music, rain, and - of course - insurance. In order to take an inventory of such things, other countable nouns must be added. For example, "a glass of water", "an item of information", "thirteen grains of rice", "two pieces [read compositions] of music", or "a drop of rain", and for our word of the day, "three insurance policies" [read contracts for insurance]

the use of "insurances" indicates a careless or uninformed author

bilmand September 24, 2009, 9:43pm

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Insurance is like rice. It is a non-count noun. Therfore it needs to be quantified rather than counted. So, I ate a rice has no proper meaning, but I ate a cup of rice does.

That said, there is a special case. When differentiating between one type and another, the "s" form is correct. Thus, my market carries many rices (mountain rice, wild rice, sticky rice, etc.) is correct. The North and South Koreans are now two peoples is correct. Therefore insurances, as used, is correct.

steve3 December 14, 2009, 3:33pm

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The term "insurances" is used within the insurance industry to mean "lines of insurance" or "types of insurance". The pluralized term is specialized industry jargon, which should not be used in general parlance.

The same applies for "damages": the term refers to monetary compensation ordered by a court of law. In general terms, when speaking of things being wrecked, the term "damage" (an uncountable noun) should be used.

cnelsonpublic December 16, 2009, 7:57pm

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"Insurances" still sounds ridiculous and, frankly, as though the speaker had not enough energy to say "types of insurance", or "insurance policies". Regardless of what archaic citations might be unearthed, the usage seems to have crawled out of infomercial / infotainment / Order before midnight tonight / But wait ! We'll double that offer and send you TWO gizbos for the low, low price of $19.99 [insert in almost unreadble type: plus S & H charges]. Sorry, it just feels sleazy.

Verbivore July 6, 2011, 10:21am

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I really like your post so much Thanks for sharing it.Florida Insurance News -- provides Health Insurance Quotes or Life Insurance. This policy is essential for everybody. It is a sort of assurance given by a financial organization. The assurance is in the kind of financial payment against any unexpected health expenses.

insurancenews March 1, 2012, 4:59pm

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The word insurance is plural in and of itself. It's all-inclusive. It's a "thing" (noun) but it's also a plurality. the radio ad should have said "We accept all major insurance" or they could have also said "We accept all major insurance plans" but "insurances" definitely doesn't sound right. I agree with you on that...

Jeff Blackman July 14, 2017, 11:56am

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