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in all my life of fishing catching multiple types of fish, even when multiple types are caught at the same time i have never, ever used the word fishes. That's like calling 20 sheep, 20 sheeps. if i heard someone use the word fishes, i'd be inclined to correct them, than end up in a debate about it which i would eventually lose because google says fishes is a word. the end.
Yes. It is shorthand for saying "types of fish". In fact, in English many uncountable and/or unchangeable nouns take on a plural when you mean "types of" or "kinds of" in certain technical, occupational, mercantile situations. For example, there is the baker who may say, "We have three breads on special today".
And as InfiniteEngima points out, it is also literary, and as you say, archaic, used in older translations of the Bible, for instance.
@julian_buzz (in response to the first post)
You are probably right if you stay in a conversational register. However, "all the fish in the sea" is not equivalent to "all the fishes in the sea." The second phrase has the power to make you think of many different kinds of fish.
Similarly, "There are other fish in the sea," means that the one you did not catch is nothing special--there are many more (just like it) for the taking. "There are other fishes in the sea," means that even though you have seen one fish, you have not yet seen them all. There are many other interesting fish (I would say "fishes") to discover.
Somebody was stating that "fishes" would be the archaic form in English. I think "fish" is the archaic form. A lot of nouns that don´t follow the -s rule in English for plurals do so because the are remnants of Old English which was pretty much like German in terms of grammar. So, mouse - mice, fish - fish, goose - geese, man - men etc... Some even follow the "umlaut rule", meaning that they change a sound in the middle of the word.
Edit: in fact the form "fishes" seems to be older, see replies bellow
Funny, this might be true... It is usually the other way around :)) http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/fish "The older form fishes is still used, when referring to different kinds of fish (freshwater fishes of the British Isles)."
If you want to say that you own fish = We have fish.
If you want to say that you are eating fish = We are having fish.
Only the sentence "We have fish" includes the verb haben in German = Wir haben Fische. Haben doesn't work for eating (as is my understanding...not native) in German. So with the given Duo sentence "Die Kinder haben Fische" you can't translate it to mean "The kids are having fish" (The kids are eating fish). Does that help? I'm not 100% sure I answered your question.
What's the rationale here: "Die Kinder haben Fische", but "Die Katzen essen Fisch". Is there something in particular about the German language that I'm to learn in this instance or do we simply have two inconsistent uses of the word fish? (which we all realize can be either singular or plural in English) I'm good either way - just curious if there's a legitimate German lesson to take from it.
I believe that "Fische" is referring to multiple of the animal fish. If "Die Kinder haben Fische," they are holding/owning more than one animal fish. We could also say, "Das Kind hat einen Fisch," with the singular "Fisch."
If the children are eating fish, however, they are eating the meat fish, which is a mass noun and so has no plural, hence we have to use the singular "Fisch."
Some words add "-e" to make them plural, but others form them in other ways (in which case adding an "-e" would just make them a non-word). There's a wide variety of ways to form plurals, and you kind of have to learn them word by word.
For example, der Hund / die Hunde, die Katze / die Katzen, der Vogel / die Vögel, der Baum / die Bäume, das Kaninchen / die Kaninchen.
There are some guidelines, though; try this site if you're interested.
That would work for most verbs. ("Die Kinder suchen Fische" = "The children look for / are looking for fish.")
But some verbs in English don't really work well in the progressive. Mostly they're verbs like "see" or "like" or "have" that show something that you're doing passively rather than a deliberate action (e.g., "look at" can be progressive, but "see" can't).
Some of these verbs have different, more active meanings when used in the progressive. "... are having fish" actually means that they're eating fish or going to eat fish as a meal, which is not what the German sentence says.
So translating into the progressive form is usually fine; "haben" is just not a good candidate for this.
"Die Kinder haben Fishe" means "the children have fish" because "die Kinder" is plural and "haben" is the third person plural conjugation of the verb "haben", to have. The child has fish would be "das Kind hat Fische". (singular noun, third person singular verb conjugation)
If you don't recognize a noun as singular or plural, you can always check the verb ending for a clue.
exactly sometimes you can associate German grammar with English grammar.. In English you would say "We have a lot of fishes" lol you would probably be thinking to yourself "This person's grammar is horrible". Fish is both plural and singular without changing the actual word in English. Same here in German, specifically this word only though