The Grammarphobia Blog

Is he a Yankees fan?

Q: When I go to see my beloved team playing in the Bronx, I go to Yankee Stadium. I am, therefore, a Yankee fan. It hurts my ears to hear somebody say, “I’m going to a Yankees game.” Why that superfluous “s”? I am on a mission to correct all who use the plural for a sports team.

A: I have to disagree with you. I think you’re a Yankees fan and you go to Yankees games. But common practice is all over the place on this. When I googled, I got twice as many hits for “Yankees game” as for “Yankee game,” but half as many for “Yankees fan” as for “Yankee fan.”

Here are my thoughts on whether a noun should be singular or plural when treated like an adjective. When a noun (say, “night” or “spring”) acts like an adjective, it’s usually singular, as in “night game” or “spring training.” This is usually true even when a singular noun looks plural (as in “news reporter” or “measles vaccine”).

But “usually” doesn’t mean all the time. Some singular nouns (such as “arm” or “farmer”) become plural in certain cases when treated like adjectives (“arms control” or “farmers market,” for example). And some plural collective nouns (like team names) can be plural in adjectival phrases if considered as a whole unit.

As for the Yankees, it depends on whether you view them as a whole team or as members of the team. For me, the word “Yankees” represents the team, so one would be a team fan (that is, “a Yankees fan”) and go to a team game (“a Yankees game”).

To use another sports example, “Red Sox” is inherently plural as a team name. A Boston fan wouldn’t say he was going to a “Red Sock game.” If the team is plural (Yankees, Patriots, Giants, whatever) I would think the plural form would be appropriate in most adjectival usages.

This is my opinion, and I may bring the wrath of “Yankee fans” down on my head. I can’t say you’re wrong, just that I disagree. But you may be interested to know that expressions like “Yankees games,” “Yankees uniforms,” “Yankees news,” and the like are listed that way on the official website of the New York Yankees.

Buy Pat’s books at a local store or Amazon.com.