Gear or gears?

Most of the coral reefs around the world have been damaged by fishing gears which sweep the ocean floor, such as dragnets and trawlers.

Yet another situation in which the countable and uncountable forms of a noun have slightly different meanings!

Gears (countable)

Take a look at this ‘block’ from a racing bicycle. It has ten ‘sprockets’ (a sprocket is a kind of gear).

Sprockets on the rear wheel of a bicycle

In the engine of a car you will find something similar, but on a larger scale, of course. Drivers change gear, from first to second gear, and so on.

Gear (uncountable)

The uncountable form of gear is synonymous with equipment. For example take a look at this diagram showing fishing equipment.

fishing tackle

Indeed, the various items of equipment shown in the diagram can be counted, but because there are so many different kinds in existence, we refer to them collectively either as equipment or gear. In fact if the kind of fishing you’re talking about involves a fishing rod, then another synonym for gear that collocates strongly with fishing, is tacklefishing tackle.

Summary

In our opening example, we need:

  • Most of the coral reefs around the world have been damaged by fishing gear which sweeps the ocean floor, such as dragnets and trawlers.

This kind of fishing equipment is large and even industrial, and so we would probably not refer to it as fishing tackle. The appropriate term here is fishing gear (gear uncountable), which in this case comprises mostly large nets dragged through sea water by boats known as trawlers.

A fishing trawler dragging a net

Further reading

If you found this useful, you might also be interested in investigating the difference between tool (countable) and equipment (uncountable)!

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