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a person in a wheelchair / people in wheelchairs

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,
which sentences would sound right?
(1a) In this building, a person in a wheelchair can move with the least physical effort.
(1b) In this building, people in wheelchairs can move with the least physical effort.

(2a) This machine helps a person in a wheelchair go up and down the stairs.
(2b) This machine helps people in wheelchairs go up and down the stairs.

Thanks in advance.
Hirashin
 

mdchachi

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Dear native English speakers,
which sentences would sound right?
(1a) In this building, a person in a wheelchair can move with the least physical effort.
(1b) In this building, people in wheelchairs can move with the least physical effort.

(2a) This machine helps a person in a wheelchair go up and down the stairs.
(2b) This machine helps people in wheelchairs go up and down the stairs.

Thanks in advance.
Hirashin
1a and 2a sound the most correct but I think they are all ok.
 

bentenmusume

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1a and 2a sound the most correct but I think they are all ok.
Hmm, really? I'm also a native (American) English speaker, and the plural versions (1b and 2b) sound just as—if not more—natural to me. The singular versions (1a and 2a), while not grammatically incorrect, sound as if the speaker is singling out one particular member of that group rather than referring to all of them.

To illustrate with a similar, simpler example removing the extra words:

(3a) This textbook helps a native English speaker learn Japanese.
(3b) This textbook helps native English speakers learn Japanese.

I, at least, would be much, much more inclined to use 3b than 3a. (I'd also be curious to hear what other native speakers think about this.)

Other nitpicky details I might point out would be that "move around" or "get around" would probably sound more natural than just "move", and "the least physical effort" strongly implies that it means you're directly comparing this building with at least two others. If you're just making a statement about this building and how easy it is for people in wheelchairs to get around, "...with little physical effort" or "...with a minimum of physical effort" would probably be more appropriate.
 

mdchachi

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I agree with you but I was focusing on this specific example.

a person can move with the least physical effort.
people can move with the least physical effort.

This machine helps a person go up and down the stairs.
This machine helps people go up and down the stairs.
 

bentenmusume

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Hmm, fair enough. I'm not sure I hear/see much (or any) of a difference between the two examples, but I concede that it might be subjective depending on how one perceives the situation in question.

In any event, so long as multiple people are using the machine and/or visiting the building in question, there is nothing about the plural versions that strikes me as "less correct" than the singular ones.
 

hirashin

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Thank you for the help, jt_.
Do you think you would use (1b) and (2b) rather than (1a) and (2a)?
 

nice gaijin

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I don't have a problem with any of the sentences, but talking about "a person in a wheelchair" is somehow both specific (referring to an individual with mobility issues) and vague ("a person")

I would use the plural version. When talking about accessibility, it's much more common to talk in general terms. The accommodations are made not for the benefit of one person in a wheelchair, but for all people in wheelchairs.
 
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