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In English the word "knowledge" is always singular. For instance, you can't say someone has "a lot of knowledges" about something. It must be "a lot of knowledge."

In Russian, I have seen "level of knowledge" as both уровень знания and уровень знаний on various websites. What are some reasons, other than purely grammatical ones, to use one choice instead of the other? I am not interested in purely grammatical reasons such as много знаний, where много requires the plural form of the noun it modifies.

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  • Strictly speaking, много does not require the plural. You can freely use it with uncountable nouns (много воды, много шума). It may also be applied to any noun taken figuratively (хорошего человека должно быть много, в новостях много Путина, в его стихах было много осени). So you may actually say «у него много знания», e.g. when you mean a deep and solid knowledge of some matter (rather than many pieces of knowledge, as implied by the more standard «много знаний»).
    – J-mster
    Feb 13 '15 at 21:28
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Knowledge of a person (who has the knowledge) or knowledge in a sphere, field are usually plural in Russian. Knowledge of something (about which is the knowledge) is singular. So check whether you use the "of" in English:

Его знания в области английского языка огромны = His knowledge in the sphere of English language is great.

Его знание английского языка огромно = His knowledge of English language is great.

In the second case you can substitute "how does he know"/"how he knows" for "his knowledge of".

So, to put it simple,

знания = knowledge

знание = knowing (how he knows)

Also, знание can be used in singular as abstract noun:

Научное знание борется с религиозным невежеством = Scientific knowledge is struggling with religious ignorance.

Here we refer to knowledge as to a method, paradigm rather than collected data.

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  • I don't really understand your first example. What's the real difference in meaning between область анг. языка and анг. язык? I would never speak about someone's "knowledge in the sphere of English," but just speak about their knowledge of English. (By the way, "knowledge of English language" sounds awkward; "knowledge of English" sounds better.)
    – KCd
    Feb 13 '15 at 23:41
  • @KCd I think what Anixx meant with the example is that знание английского - knowledge of English is more on a practical side of using the language for communication, and знания в области Английского - knowledge in the sphere of English is more into academic/theoretical side of language science. At least it makes sense in Russian not sure if it's exactly the same in English. Correct me if I wrong.
    – LoomyBear
    Feb 16 '15 at 8:35
  • @LoomyBear, is в области necessary in the second phrase? To take a different area, are знание истории and знания истории both sensible, and if so then what is the difference?
    – KCd
    Feb 16 '15 at 13:48
  • @KCd I think you nailed it with pointing out that knowledge is not used in plural. The thing is in Russian the same word could do that. So when I say, for example, знание Истории it means that I'm proficient in History in general. when I say знания Истории which doesn't sound very right and should be told more like знания в области Истории it means that I'm proficient in Ancient History, Modern History and Pre-Columbian American History and other fields of the same subject. So in general it means the same, but знаниЯ implies more profound knowledge of a subject.
    – LoomyBear
    Feb 16 '15 at 13:58
  • @KCd "знания истории" is totally wrong.
    – Anixx
    Feb 16 '15 at 14:05
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«Уровень знаний» is much more common and can be used as the default translation of "the level of knowledge". It is almost idiomatic, and is used even when talking about specific or abstract knowledge (where the singular form «знание» would be appropriate as suggested by Anixx'answer).

«Уровень знания» is sometimes used to define a gradation of some specific knowledge (уровень знания английского, необходимый для работы), but even in that cases it can be replaced by the plural (уровень знаний английского) without any loss.

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«уровень знания» — it mean level/gradation knowledge about some concrete well known skill (it similar for rule of using "the" article in English language)

«уровень знаний» — it mean level/gradation for all/genetic scope of skills, knowledge (it similar for rule of using "a" article in English language)

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