'Damage' or 'Damages'? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 20 March 2023)

Damage or Damages: Which One Is Correct?

The noun damage is uncountable when it refers to physical or emotional harm caused to someone or something, and therefore it is never used in the plural, and it never comes after the indefinite article a or a number:

Yesterday's typhoon caused a lot of damage.
Yesterday's typhoon caused a lot of damages.

Tear gas can cause serious damage to the human body.
Tear gas can cause serious damages to the human body.

Illegal dumping can cause serious environmental damage.
Illegal dumping can cause serious environmental damages.

Great damage has been done to his reputation.
A great damage has been done to his reputation.

The plural form damages is a specialised legal term that refers to money ordered to be paid as compensation for injury or loss in a court case:

✅ The court has ordered the couple to pay $100,000 in damages to their former domestic helper.

John Lee was ordered to pay damages of eight million dollars.

The victim was awarded substantial damages.

Examples from the Media

The tornado-grade winds dashed electrical infrastructure, bore a hole into a downtown church, collapsed part of a local brewery and caused an estimated $750,000 in damage to a historic railway, which is now soliciting donations to help with repairs. —Toronto Star (2022)

As we describe in our recent article on how the United States has "weaponized interdependence," U.S. sanctions can indeed do a lot of damage to other countries' economies. —The Washington Post (2019)

A Beijing-funded publisher has been ordered to pay HK$250,000 (US$32,000) in damages to a Hong Kong press group for defamatory remarks in a book which alleged it had taken money from the United States to support the 2014 Occupy Movement. —South China Morning Post (2021)

A court in Japan has awarded damages for the first time to people who were forcibly sterilised under a now-defunct eugenics law designed to prevent the births of 'inferior children'. —The Guardian (2022)


Choose the correct answers to complete the sentences.

1. The victim intends to sue the driver for damage/damages.

2. If you drink too much alcohol, you will likely suffer liver damage/damages.

3. The man was awarded $5 million in damage/damages.

4. You should insure your valuable possessions against loss or damage/damages.

5. An accident caused permanent damage/damages to his hearing.

Answer Key

1. damages    2. damage    3. damages    4. damage    5. damage

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. This is more natural sounding than saying at night on 27 November.
2. The singular verb was should be used to agree with the subject a report. Alternatively, you could use the active voice and say the police received a report that damage had been caused.
3. In this context, damage is uncountable. 
4. The past tense should be used.
5. This is probably the best choice in this context.

1. The noun damage is uncountable when it refers to physical harm caused to something so that it is broken. 
2. The indefinite article a is required. Alternatively, the plural form services could be used.

1. Compensation is uncountable when it refers to something, especially money, that someone gives you because he or she is responsible for your loss or suffering.
2. Damage is uncountable when it refers to harm or injury.

1. Permanent, irreversible and irreparable are arguably better word choices for describing damage than irrecoverable. Even though irrecoverable can mean 'unable to be remedied or rectified', it more commonly collocates with losses, meaning that someone is unable to get back what he or she has lost. Google Ngram supports the idea that irrecoverable damage is not a usual collocation.
2. Damage is uncountable in this context.
3. This is more natural sounding than saying leave such regrets in your life.
4. Mum and Dad should be capitalised when they are used as proper nouns (i.e. as names).
(Image Source: Billy Ng)

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