One innocent little letter can change a word’s meaning. That’s why you must think when choosing between nouns like damage or damages.
Sometimes my real job can provide inspiration for a blog post, especially when it comes to grammar. Differentiating between damage or damages represents one such example.
Someone wrote a script about the aftermath of a powerful storm. At one point, one of the producers spotted a line about surveying the damages. Fortunately, she caught it before it made it to air.
The reporter meant to use damage, not damages.
Damage — without the S — refers to physical harm. Such harm is often visible, but sometimes it might not be.
A bomb can damage a building. Storms can as well. Every year, we track damage Mother Nature inflicts in the forms of hurricanes, tornadoes and other similar disasters.
A gun, knife or other types of weapons can damage the human body. Some of the damage can be repaired, but some types become too much to survive. It does not always involve external sources. Sometimes, in the case of a stroke or heart attack, one’s heath on the inside can cause damage to the body.
An assault can inflict damage on a person’s mind. Emotional baggage can plague a person for decades if they don’t seek help with it.
But in all of those cases, damage means the injury a person or thing suffers (or sustains) as a result of an incident.
When you’re talking about the aftermath of a single event, all of the damage done to various structures (or people) is collectively referred to with the singular form, damage. The script erroneously referred to damages from the storm.
When you speak about damages, you generally are referring to a lawsuit. A judge or a jury can award damages to the plaintiff in a lawsuit.
Damages can take several forms. Lumen tells us there are six types of legal damages.
The two you probably know from those court show reruns are compensatory and punitive damages.
You may hear compensatory damages referred to as actual damages. They cover the actual loss of a defendant’s actions (or lack of action) that a plaintiff suffers.
Punitive damages refers to an award against the defendant that punishes for causing the other types of damages.
Hopefully, you won’t ever be in a situation in which you suffer damage or in one that requires you to sue for damages.