English nouns are inflected for grammatical number, meaning that, if they are of the countable type, they generally have different forms for singular and plural. This article discusses the variety of ways in which English plural nouns are formed from the corresponding singular forms, as well as various issues concerning the usage of singulars and plurals in English. For plurals of pronouns, see English personal pronouns.
In English, there are six sibilant consonants, namely /s z ? ? t? d?/. Where a singular noun ends in a sibilant sound, the plural is formed by adding /?z/ or /?z/ (in some transcription systems, this is abbreviated as /?z/). The spelling adds -es, or -s if the singular already ends in -e:
|massage||massages||/m?'s?:??z/ or /'mæs?:??z/|
In most English varieties, there are five non-sibilant voiceless consonants that occur at the end of words, namely /p t k f ?/; some varieties also have /x/. When the singular form ends in a voiceless consonant other than a sibilant, the plural is normally formed by adding /s/ (a voiceless sibilant). The spelling adds -s:
|loch||lochs||/l?xs/ or /l?ks/|
Some that end in /f/ or /?/, however, are "near-regular." See section below.
For a singular noun ending on a non-sibilant voiced consonant, the plural adds /z/ (a voiced sibilant) and the spelling adds -s:
In English, all vowels are voiced. Nouns ending in a vowel sound similarly add /z/ to form the plural. The spelling usually adds -s, but certain instances (detailed below) may add -es instead:
Singular nouns ending in o preceded by a consonant in many cases spell the plural by adding -es (pronounced /z/):
|hero||heroes||/'ho?z/, /'hi?o?z/ or /'hz/|
|potato||potatoes||/p?'te?to?z/ or /p?'te?tz/|
|volcano||volcanoes or volcanos||/v?l'ke?no?z/, /v?l'ke?no?z/ or /v?l'ke?nz/|
However many nouns of foreign origin, including almost all Italian loanwords, add only -s:
|zero||zeros (or zeroes)|
|quarto (paper size)||quartos|
Nouns ending in a vocalic y (that is, used as a vowel) preceded by a consonant usually drop the y and add -ies (pronounced /iz/, or /aiz/ in words where the y is pronounced /ai/):
Words ending in quy also follow this pattern, since in English qu is a digraph for two consonant sounds (/kw/) or sometimes one (/k/):
However, proper nouns (particularly names of people) of this type usually form their plurals by simply adding -s: the two Kennedys, there are three Harrys in our office. With place names this rule is not always adhered to: Sicilies and Scillies are the standard plurals of Sicily and Scilly, while Germanys and Germanies are both used. Nor does the rule apply to words that are merely capitalized common nouns: P&O Ferries (from ferry).
Other exceptions include lay-bys and stand-bys.
Words ending in a y preceded by a vowel form their plurals by adding -s:
However the plural form (rarely used) of money is usually monies, although moneys is also found. Also, the plural of trolley can be either trolleys or trollies, although the former is more common.
Nouns written with -i usually have plurals in -is but some in -ies are also found.
|chili or chilli||chilis, chilies, chillis or chillies||/'tliz/|
In Old and Middle English, voiceless fricatives /f/ and /?/ mutated to voiced fricatives /v/ and /ð/ respectively before a voiced ending. In some words this voicing survives in the modern English plural. In the case of /f/ changing to /v/, the mutation is indicated in the orthography as well; also, a silent e is added in this case if the singular does not already end with -e:
In addition, there is one word where /s/ is voiced in the plural:
Many nouns ending in /f/ or /?/ (including all words where /f/ is represented orthographically by gh or ph) nevertheless retain the voiceless consonant:
|moth||moths (voiced /m?ðz/ is rare but does occur in New England and Canada)|
Some can do either:
|roof||roofs (commonly voiced as /?u:vz/ to rhyme with hooves, but rooves is a rare archaic spelling)|
|turf||turfs/turves (latter rare)|
There are many other less regular ways of forming plurals, usually stemming from older forms of English or from foreign borrowings.
Some nouns have identical singular and plural (zero inflection). Many of these are the names of animals:
As a general rule, game or other animals are often referred to in the singular for the plural in a sporting context: "He shot six brace of pheasant", "Carruthers bagged a dozen tiger last year", whereas in another context such as zoology or tourism the regular plural would be used. Eric Partridge refers to these sporting terms as "snob plurals" and conjectures that they may have developed by analogy with the common English irregular plural animal words "deer", "sheep" and "trout". Similarly, nearly all kinds of fish have no separate plural form (though there are exceptions--such as rays, sharks or lampreys). As to the word fish itself, the plural is usually identical to the singular, although fishes is sometimes used, especially when meaning "species of fish". Fishes is also used in iconic contexts, such as the Bible story of the loaves and fishes, or the reference in The Godfather, "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."
Other nouns that have identical singular and plural forms include:
Many names for Native American peoples are not inflected in the plural:
Exceptions include Algonquins, Apaches, Aztecs, Chippewas, Hurons, Incas, Mohawks, Oneidas, and Seminoles.
English sometimes distinguishes between regular plural forms of demonyms/ethnonyms (e.g. "five Dutchmen", "several Irishmen"), and uncountable plurals used to refer to entire nationalities collectively (e.g. "the Dutch", "the Irish").
Certain other words borrowed from foreign languages such as Japanese and M?ori are "correctly" not inflected in the plural, although many people are not aware of this rule; see § Irregular plurals from other languages below.
The plurals of a few nouns are formed from the singular by adding -n or -en, stemming from the Old English weak declension. Only the following three are commonly found:
|ox||oxen||(particularly when referring to a team of draft (draught) animals, sometimes oxes in nonstandard American English)|
|child||children||(only possible plural; originated as a double plural, with -en added to Old English plural cildra/cildru, which also led to the archaic plural childer as in Childermas, occasionally still encountered in Ireland).|
|brother||brethren||(archaic as plural of brother meaning a male sibling, but often seen as plural of brother meaning a member of a religious congregation or fraternal organization; originated as a double plural, with -en added to Early Middle English brother)|
As noted, the word "children" comes from an earlier form "childer". There were formerly a few other words like this: eyre/eyren (eggs), lamber/lambren (lambs), and calver/calveren (calves).
The following -(e)n plurals are found in dialectal, rare, or archaic usage:
|cow||kine||(archaic/regional; actually earlier plural "kye" [cf. Scots "kye"--"cows"] plus -en suffix, forming a double plural)|
|eye||eyen||(rare, found in some regional dialects, used by Shakespeare)|
|house||housen||(rare/dialectal, used by Rudyard Kipling in Puck of Pook's Hill)|
|hose||hosen||(rare/archaic, used in King James Version of the Bible)|
|tree||treen||(archaic/obsolete, used by William Browne)|
|aurochs||aurochsen||(alternative plural, also aurochs)|
The word box, referring to a computer, is occasionally pluralized humorously to boxen in the hacker subculture[clarification needed]. In the same context, multiple VAX computers are sometimes called Vaxen particularly if operating as a cluster, but multiple Unix systems are usually Unices along the Latin model.
The plural is sometimes formed by simply changing the vowel sound of the singular (these are sometimes called mutated plurals):
|mouse||mice (computer mouse can also take the regular plural form mouses)|
This group consists of words that historically belong to the Old English consonant declension, see Germanic umlaut § I-mutation in Old English. There are many compounds of man and woman that form their plurals in the same way: postmen, policewomen, etc.
The plural of mongoose is mongooses. Mongeese is a back-formation by mistaken analogy to goose / geese and is often used in a jocular context. The form meese is sometimes also used humorously as the plural of moose--normally moose or mooses--or even of mouse.
Some words have irregular plurals that do not fit any of the types given here.
English has borrowed a great many words from Classical Latin and Classical Greek. Classical Latin has a very complex system of endings in which there are five categories or declensions of nouns, adjectives, and pronouns (some with sub-categories). Usually, in borrowing words from Latin, the endings of the nominative are used: nouns whose nominative singular ends in -a (first declension) have plurals in -ae (anima, animae); nouns whose nominative singular ends in -m (second declension neuter) have plurals in -a (stadium, stadia; datum, data). (For a full treatment, see Latin declensions.) Sometimes forms other than the nominative are seen: in partibus infidelium ("in the lands of the heathens") where partibus is an ablative plural and infidelium is a genitive plural.
Classical Greek had a simpler system, but still more complicated than that of English. Note that most loan words from Greek in English are from Attic Greek (the Athenian Greek of Plato, Aristotle, and other "great" writers), not Demotic Greek, Koine (Biblical) Greek, or Modern Greek. This is because Attic Greek is what is taught in classes in Greek in Western Europe, and therefore was the Greek that the word borrowers knew.
The general trend with loanwords is toward what is called Anglicisation or naturalisation, that is, the re-formation of the word and its inflections as normal English words. Many nouns have settled on, or acquired a modern form from the original (usually Latin). Other nouns have become Anglicised, taking on the normal "s" ending. In some cases, both forms are still competing.
The choice of a form can often depend on context: for a scholar, the plural of appendix is appendices (following the original language); for some physicians, the plural of appendix is appendixes. Likewise, a radio or radar engineer works with antennas, but an entomologist deals with antennae. The choice of form can also depend on the level of discourse: traditional Latin plurals are found more often in academic and scientific contexts, whereas in daily speech the Anglicised forms are more common. In the following table, the Latin plurals are listed, together with the Anglicised forms when these are more common.
Different paradigms of Latin pronunciation can lead to confusion as to the number or gender of the noun in question. As traditionally used in English, including scientific, medical, and legal contexts, Latin nouns retain the classical inflection with regard to spelling; however those inflections use an Anglicised pronunciation: the entomologist pronounces antennae as /æn't?ni/. This may cause confusion for those familiar with the Classical Latin pronunciation /æn't?na?/. The words alumni (masculine plural) and alumnae (feminine plural) are notorious in this regard, as alumni in Anglicised pronunciation sounds the same as alumnae in Italianate pronunciation.
Because many of these plurals do not end in -s, some of them have been reinterpreted as singular forms: particularly the words datum and medium (as in a "medium of communication"), where the original plurals data and media are now, in many contexts, used by some as singular mass nouns: "The media is biased"; "This data shows us that ..." (although a number of scientists, especially of British origin, still say "These data show us that ..."). See below for more information. Similarly, words such as criteria and phenomena are used as singular by some speakers, although this is still considered incorrect in standard usage (see below).
|encyclopaedia (or encyclopædia) / encyclopedia||encyclopaedias / encyclopedias (encyclopaediae and encyclopediae are rare)|
Scientific abbreviations for words of Latin origin ending in -a, such as SN for supernova, can form a plural by adding -e, as SNe for supernovae.
(Some of these are Greek rather than Latin words, but the method of plural formation in English is the same.) Some people treat process as if it belonged to this class, pronouncing processes /'pr?s?si:z/ instead of standard /'pr?s?s?z/. Since the word comes from Latin processus, whose plural in the fourth declension is process?s with a long u, this pronunciation is by analogy, not etymology. Axes (/'æksi:z/), the plural of axis, is pronounced differently from axes (/'æks?z/), the plural of ax(e).
Specie for a singular of species is considered nonstandard. It is standard meaning the form of money, where it derives from the Latin singular ablative in the phrase in specie.
|agendum (obsolete, not listed in most dictionaries)||agenda means a "list of items of business at a meeting" and has the plural agendas.|
|datum||data (Now usually treated as a singular mass noun in both informal and educated usage, but usage in scientific publications shows a strong American/British divide. American usage generally prefers to treat data as a singular in all contexts, including in serious and academic publishing. British usage now widely accepts treating data as singular in standard English, including educated everyday usage at least in non-scientific use. British scientific publishing usually still prefers treating data as a plural. Some British university style guides recommend using data for both the singular and the plural use and some recommend treating it only as a singular in connection with computers.)|
In engineering, drafting, surveying, and geodesy, and in weight and balance calculations for aircraft, a datum (plural datums or data) is a reference point, surface, or axis on an object or the Earth's surface against which measurements are made.
|forum||fora/forums (fora is rare and might only be used to refer to more than one original Roman forum.)|
|medium||media (in communication systems and digital computers. This is now often treated as a singular mass noun.); mediums (spiritualists, or items of medium size)|
|referendum||referendums is often taken to mean plebiscites, and referenda as the propositions voted on. It is often argued that referenda is incorrect because it is a Latin gerund, which did not have a plural form, while the "propositions voted on" is more like a gerundive, which could be pluralised.|
|spectrum||spectra (as in power spectrum in electrical engineering)|
|stadium||stadia/stadiums (the latter is far more common)|
|cactus||cactuses/cacti (in Arizona many people avoid either choice with cactus as both singular and plural.)|
|campus||campuses (The Latinate plural form campi is sometimes used, particularly with respect to colleges or universities; however, it is sometimes frowned upon. By contrast, the common plural form campuses is universally accepted.)|
|octopus||octopuses (note: octopi also occurs, although it is strictly speaking unfounded because it is not a Latin noun of the second declension, but rather a Latinized form of Greek [okt?pous, "eight-foot"]. The theoretically correct form octopodes is rarely used.)|
|platypus||platypuses (same as octopus: platypi occurs but is etymologically incorrect, and platypodes, while technically correct, is even rarer than octopodes.)|
|prospectus||prospectuses (plural prospectus is rare although correct in Latin)|
|succubus||succubi (The word omnibus is similar in form but is originally dative plural, so cannot be pluralised to *omnibi: see The Motor Bus.)|
|virus||viruses (see Plural form of words ending in -us#Virus)|
|meatus||meatus (but usually meatuses)|
|status||status (but usually statuses)|
|apparatus||apparatus (but usually apparatuses)|
Colloquial usages based in a humorous fashion on the second declension include Elvii (better Latin would be Elv?s or Elvid?s) to refer to multiple Elvis impersonators and Loti, used by petrolheads to refer to Lotus automobiles in the plural.
Some Greek plurals are preserved in English (cf. Plurals of words of Greek origin):
|criterion||criteria/criterions (the latter form is rare)|
|phenomenon||phenomena/phenomenons (the latter form is common, though sometimes proscribed)|
|Atlas||Atlantes (statues of the Titan); but|
|atlas||atlases (map collections)|
Such -ata plurals also occur in Latin words borrowed from Greek, e.g. poemata. The a is short in both languages.
|beau||beaux or beaus|
|bureau||bureaux or bureaus|
|château||châteaux or châteaus|
|milieu||milieux or milieus|
|tableau||tableaux or tableaus|
See also § French compounds below.
Foreign terms may take native plural forms, especially when the user is addressing an audience familiar with the language. In such cases, the conventionally formed English plural may sound awkward or be confusing.
|kniazhestvo||kniazhestva / kniazhestvos|
|kobzar||kobzari / kobzars|
|oblast||oblasti / oblasts|
|cherub||cherubim / cherubs|
|seraph||seraphim / seraphs (The Hebrew singular is "saraph". "Seraph" is a back-formation from "seraphim". The form "seraphims" occurs in the King James Version.)|
|matzah||matzot / matzahs|
|kibbutz||kibbutzim / kibbutzes|
Ot is pronounced os (with unvoiced s) in the Ashkenazi dialect.
Other nouns such as kimonos, ninjas, futons, and tsunamis are more often seen with a regular English plural.
|M?ori[b 2]||M?ori/(occasionally M?oris)|
|Iqalummiuq||Iqalummiut ("inhabitants of Iqaluit")|
|Nunavimmiuq||Nunavimmiut ("inhabitants of Nunavik")|
|Nunavummiuq||Nunavummiut ("inhabitants of Nunavut")|
|cwm||cwms||"Welsh valley"; the Welsh plural is cymoedd|
|igloo||igloos||the Inuktitut plural of iglu is igluit|
|kayak||kayaks||the Inuktitut plural of qajaq is ? qajait|
|kindergarten||kindergartens||the German plural is Kindergärten|
|ninja||ninja/ninjas||Japanese does not have plural forms|
|pizza||pizzas||the Italian plural is pizze|
|sauna||saunas||the Finnish plural is saunat|
|able seaman||able seamen|
|head banger||head bangers|
|lieutenant colonel||lieutenant colonels|
|yellow-dog contract||yellow-dog contracts|
Some compounds have one head with which they begin. These heads are also nouns and the head usually pluralizes, leaving the second, usually a post-positive adjective, term unchanged:
|attorney general||attorneys general|
|bill of attainder||bills of attainder|
|court martial||courts martial|
|director general||directors general|
|fee simple absolute||fees simple absolute|
|poet laureate||poets laureate|
|ship of the line||ships of the line|
|chief of staff||chiefs of staff|
|procurator fiscal (in Scotland)||procurators fiscal|
It is common in informal speech to pluralize the last word instead, like most English nouns, but in edited prose aimed at educated people, the forms given above are usually preferred.
|woman doctor||women doctors (no longer in common use)|
Two-headed compounds in which the first head has a standard plural form, however, tend to pluralize only the final head:
In military usage, the term general, as part of an officer's title, is etymologically an adjective, but it has been adopted as a noun and thus a head, so compound titles employing it are pluralized at the end:
|brigadier general||brigadier generals|
|major general||major generals|
For compounds of three or more words that have a head (or a term functioning as a head) with an irregular plural form, only that term is pluralized:
|woman of the street||women of the street|
For many other compounds of three or more words with a head at the front--especially in cases where the compound is ad hoc or the head is metaphorical--it is generally regarded as acceptable to pluralize either the first major term or the last (if open when singular, such compounds tend to take hyphens when plural in the latter case):
|ham on rye||hams on rye/ham-on-ryes|
With a few extended compounds, both terms may be pluralized--again, with an alternative (which may be more prevalent, e.g. heads of state):
|head of state||heads of states/heads of state|
|son of a bitch||sons of bitches/sons-of-a-bitch|
In some extended compounds constructed around o, only the last term is pluralized (or left unchanged if it is already plural):
See also the Headless nouns section below.
Many English compounds have been borrowed directly from French, and these generally follow a somewhat different set of rules. In French loaned compounds with a noun as head and a qualifying adjective, it is correct to pluralize both words, in common with French practice. Usually in French, the noun precedes the adjective:
|agent provocateur||agents provocateurs|
|entente cordiale||ententes cordiales|
|fait accompli||faits accomplis|
|idée fixe||idées fixes|
In some expressions, the adjective precedes the noun, in which case it is still correct to pluralize both words, in common with French practice, although in the English form sometimes only the noun is pluralized:
|beau geste||beaux gestes / beau gestes|
|belle époque||belles époques / belle époques|
|bon mot||bons mots / bon mots|
|bon vivant||bons vivants / bon vivants|
However, if the adjectives beau "beautiful/handsome", nouveau "new", or vieux "old" precede a singular noun beginning with a vowel or a mute h (such as homme), they are changed to bel (as in the example below), nouvel, or vieil (to facilitate pronunciation in French). In these cases, both the noun and the adjective are pluralized in the English form as in French:
|bel homme||beaux hommes|
In other French compound expressions, only the head noun is pluralized:
|coup d'état||coups d'état|
|cri du coeur / cri du coeur||cris du coeur / cris du coeur|
|tour de force||tours de force|
|tête-à-tête||tête-à-têtes||(In French the plural form is the same as the singular form.)|
A distinctive case is the compound film noir. For this French-loaned artistic term, English-language texts variously use as the plural films noirs, films noir and, most prevalently, film noirs. The form films noir has no basis in either French usage or anglicization of French compounds. The 11th edition of the standard Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (2006) lists the anglicized version film noirs as the preferred style. Three primary bases may be identified for this:[opinion]
The plural of individual letters is usually written with -'s: there are two h's in this sentence; mind your p's and q's; dot the i's and cross the t's.
Some people extend this use of the apostrophe to other cases, such as plurals of numbers written in figures (e.g. "1990's"), words used as terms (e.g. "his writing uses a lot of but's"). However others prefer to avoid this method (which can lead to confusion with the possessive -'s), and write 1990s, buts; this is the style recommended by The Chicago Manual of Style.
Likewise, acronyms and initialisms are normally pluralized simply by adding (lowercase) -s, as in MPs, although the apostrophe is sometimes seen. Use of the apostrophe is more common in those cases where the letters are followed by periods (B.A.'s), or where the last letter is S (as in PS's and CAS's, although PSs and CASs are also acceptable; the ending -es is also sometimes seen).
English (like Latin and certain other European languages) can form a plural of certain one-letter abbreviations by doubling the letter: p. ("page"), pp. ("pages"). Other examples include ll. ("lines"), ff. ("following lines/pages"), hh. ("hands", as a measure), PP. ("Popes"), SS. ("Saints"), ss. (or §§) ("sections"), vv. ("volumes"). Some multi-letter abbreviations can be treated the same way, by doubling the final letter: MS ("manuscript"), MSS ("manuscripts"); op. ("opus"), opp. ("opera" as plural of opus).
However, often the abbreviation used for the singular is used also as the abbreviation for the plural; this is normal for most units of measurement and currency. The SI unit symbols are officially not considered abbreviations and not pluralized, as in 10 m ("10 metres").
In The Language Instinct, linguist Steven Pinker discusses what he calls "headless words", typically bahuvrihi compounds, such as lowlife and flatfoot, in which life and foot are not heads semantically; that is, a lowlife is not a type of life, and a flatfoot is not a type of foot. When the common form of such a word is singular, it is treated as if it has a regular plural, even if the final constituent of the word is usually pluralized in an irregular fashion. Thus the plural of lowlife is lowlifes, not "lowlives", according to Pinker. Other proposed examples include:
|still life||still lifes|
Some nouns have no singular form. Such a noun is called a plurale tantum. Examples include cattle, thanks, clothes (originally a plural of cloth).
A particular set of nouns, describing things having two parts, comprises the major group of pluralia tantum in modern English:
These words are interchangeable with a pair of scissors, a pair of trousers, and so forth. In the American fashion industry it is common to refer to a single pair of pants as a pant--though this is a back-formation, the English word (deriving from the French pantalon) was originally singular. In the same field, one half of a pair of scissors separated from the other half is, rather illogically, referred to as a half-scissor. Tweezers used to be part of this group, but tweezer has come into common usage since the second half of the 20th century.
Nouns describing things having two parts are expressed in the singular when used as adjectives. Other pluralia tantum remain unchanged as adjectives.
|a pair of spectacles||a spectacle grinder|
|a pair of trousers||a trouser press|
|clothes||a clothes line|
There are also some plural nouns whose singular forms exist, though they are much more rarely encountered than the plurals:
Mass nouns (or uncountable nouns) do not represent distinct objects, so the singular and plural semantics do not apply in the same way. Some examples:
Some mass nouns can be pluralized, but the meaning in this case may change somewhat. For example, when I have two grains of sand, I do not have two sands; I have sand. There is less sand in your pile than in mine, not fewer sands. However, there could be the many "sands of Africa"--either many distinct stretches of sand, or distinct types of sand of interest to geologists or builders, or simply the allusive The Sands of Mars.
It is rare to pluralize furniture in this way (though it was formerly more common) and information is never pluralized.
There are several isotopes of oxygen, which might be referred to as different oxygens. In casual speech, oxygen might be used as shorthand for "an oxygen atom", but in this case, it is not a mass noun, so one can refer to "multiple oxygens in the same molecule".
One would interpret Bob's wisdoms as various pieces of Bob's wisdom (that is, don't run with scissors, defer to those with greater knowledge), deceits as a series of instances of deceitful behaviour (lied on income tax, dated my wife), and the different idlenesses of the worker as plural distinct manifestations of the mass concept of idleness (or as different types of idleness, "bone lazy" versus "no work to do").
The pair specie and species both come from a Latin word meaning "kind", but they do not form a singular-plural pair. In Latin, specie is the ablative singular form, while species is the nominative form, which happens to be the same in both singular and plural. In English, species behaves similarly--as a noun with identical singular and plural--while specie is treated as a mass noun, referring to money in the form of coins (the idea is of "[payment] in kind").
Certain words which were originally plural in form have come to be used almost exclusively as singulars (usually uncountable); for example billiards, measles, news, mathematics, physics, etc. Some of these words, such as news, are strongly and consistently felt as singular by fluent speakers. These words are usually marked in dictionaries with the phrase "plural in form but singular in construction" (or similar wording). Others, such as aesthetics, are less strongly or consistently felt as singular; for the latter type, the dictionary phrase "plural in form but singular or plural in construction" recognizes variable usage.
Some words of foreign origin are much better known in their (foreign-morphology) plural form, and are often not even recognized by English speakers as having plural form; descriptively, in English morphology many of these simply are not in plural form, because English has naturalized the foreign plural as the English singular. Usage of the original singular may be considered pedantic, hypercorrective, or incorrect. In the examples below, the original plural is now commonly used as a singular, and in some cases a regular English plural (effectively a double plural) has been formed from it.
|Original singular||Original plural/
|datum[f 2]||data||data (mass noun)|
|graffito||graffiti||graffiti (mass noun)|
|panino||panini||paninis (currently gaining use)|
|spaghetto||spaghetti||spaghetti (mass noun)|
|talib||taliban||taliban (collective noun)|
|zucchino||zucchini (U.S. English)||zucchinis|
Magazine was derived from Arabic via French. It was originally plural, but in French and English it is always regarded as singular.
Other words whose plurals are sometimes used as singulars include:
Some words have unusually formed singulars and plurals, but develop "normal" singular-plural pairs by back-formation. For example, pease (modern peas) was in origin a singular with plural peasen. However, pease came to be analysed as plural by analogy, from which a new singular pea was formed; the spelling of pease was also altered accordingly, surviving only in the name of the dish pease porridge or pease pudding. Similarly, termites was the three-syllable plural of termes; this singular was lost, however, and the plural form reduced to two syllables. Syringe is a back-formation from syringes, itself the plural of syrinx, a musical instrument. Cherry is from Norman French cherise. Phases was once the plural of phasis, but the singular is now phase. The nonstandard, offensive, and now obsolete Chinee and Portugee singulars are back-formations from the standard Chinese and Portuguese.
Kudos is a singular Greek word meaning praise, but is often taken to be a plural. At present, however, kudo is considered an error, though the usage is becoming more common as kudos becomes better known. The name of the Greek sandwich style gyros is increasingly undergoing a similar transformation.
The term, from Latin, for the main upper arm flexor in the singular is the biceps muscle (from biceps brachii); however, many English speakers take it to be a plural and refer to the muscle of only one arm, by back-formation, as a bicep. The correct--although very seldom used--Latin plural is bicipites.
The word sastrugi (hard ridges on deep snow) is of Russian origin and its singular is sastruga; but the imagined Latin-type singular sastrugus has sometimes been used.
Geographical names may be treated as singular even if they are plural in form, if they are regarded as representing a single entity such as a country: The United States is a country in North America (similarly with the Netherlands, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Nations, etc.). However, if the sense is a group of geographical objects, such as islands or mountains, a plural-form name will be treated as plural: The Hebrides are a group of islands off the coast of Scotland.
Words such as army, company, crowd, family, fleet, government, majority, mess, number, pack, party and team may refer either to a single entity or the members of the set composing it. If the latter meaning is intended, the word (though singular in form) may be treated as if it were a plural, in that it may take a plural verb and be replaced with a plural pronoun: (in British English) the government are considering their position (alternatively the government is considering its position). See synesis.
Thus, as H. W. Fowler describes, in British English they are "treated as singular or plural at discretion"; Fowler notes that occasionally a "delicate distinction" is made possible by discretionary plurals: "The Cabinet is divided is better, because in the order of thought a whole must precede division; and The Cabinet are agreed is better, because it takes two or more to agree."
The following rules apply to the plurals of numerical terms such as dozen, score, hundred, thousand, million, and similar:
Nouns used attributively to qualify other nouns are generally in the singular, even though for example, a dog catcher catches more than one dog, and a department store has more than one department. This is true even for some binary nouns where the singular form is not found in isolation, such as a trouser mangle or the scissor kick. This is also true where the attribute noun is itself qualified with a number, such as a twenty-dollar bill, a ten-foot pole or a two-man tent. The plural is used for pluralia tantum nouns: a glasses case is for eyeglasses, while a glass case is made of glass (but compare eyeglass case); also an arms race versus arm wrestling. The plural may be used to emphasise the plurality of the attribute, especially in British English but very rarely in American English: a careers advisor, a languages expert. The plural is also more common with irregular plurals for various attributions: women killers are women who kill, whereas woman killers are those who kill women.
The singular and plural forms of loanwords from other languages where countable nouns used attributively are, unlike English, plural and come at the end of the word are sometimes modified when entering English usage. For example, in Spanish, nouns composed of a verb and its plural object usually have the verb first and noun object last (e.g. the legendary monster chupacabras, literally "sucks-goats", or in a more natural English formation "goatsucker") and the plural form of the object noun is retained in both the singular and plural forms of the compound (i.e. singular el chupacabras, plural los chupacabras). However, when entering English, the final s of chupacabras was treated as a plural of the compound (i.e. the monster) rather than of the object of the verb (i.e. the goats), and so "chupacabra" without an s is the singular in English, even though in Spanish chupacabra could literally be construed as a creature that sucks only one single goat.
In the names of sports teams, sometimes a noun will be given a regular plural in -s even though that noun in normal use has an irregular plural form (a particular case of headless nouns as described above). For example, there are teams called the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, even though the word marlin normally has its plural identical to the singular and the plural of leaf is leaves. (This does not always apply; for example, there is the Minnesota Lynx, not *Lynxes.) Some teams use a non-standard plural spelling in their names, such as the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox.
When a sport team's name is plural, the corresponding singular is often used to denote a member of that team; for example a player for the Cincinnati Reds may be referred to as a (Cincinnati) Red. This also applies to the St. Louis Blues ice hockey team, even though it is named after the song the "St. Louis Blues" and thus blues was originally a singular identical to its plural.
When a team's name is plural in form but cannot be singularized by removing an -s, as in Boston Red Sox, the plural is sometimes used as a singular (a player may be referred to as "a Red Sox"). Oftentimes, the singular "Red Sox" will be pronounced as if it were "Red Sock", even though the spelling suggests otherwise.
When a team's name is singular, as in Miami Heat and Colorado Avalanche, the same singular word may also sometimes be used to denote a player (a Heat, an Avalanche). When referring to more than one player, it is normal to use Heat players or Avalanche players (although in the latter case the team's plural-form nickname Avs is also available).
For the (especially British) treatment of teams as plural even if they have singular names, see § Singulars with collective meaning treated as plural above.
Certain adjectives can be used, uninflected, as plurals denoting people of the designated type. For example, unemployed and homeless can be used to mean "unemployed people" and "homeless people", as in There are two million unemployed. Such usage is common with the definite article, to denote people of a certain type generally: the unemployed, the homeless.
This is common with certain nationalities: the British, the Dutch, the English, the French, the Irish, the Spanish, the Welsh, and those where the adjective and noun singular and plural are identical anyway, including the Swiss and those in -ese (the Chinese etc.). In the case of most nationalities, however, the plural of the demonym noun is used for this purpose: (the) Americans, (the) Poles. Cases where the adjective formation is possible, but the noun provides a commonly used alternative, include the Scottish (or more commonly (the) Scots), the Danish (or (the) Danes), the Finnish (or (the) Finns), the Swedish (or (the) Swedes).
The noun is normally used anyway when referring to specific sets of people (five Frenchmen, a few Spaniards), although the adjective may be used especially in case of a group of mixed or unspecified sex, if the demonym nouns are gender-specific: there were five French (or French people) in the bar (if neither Frenchmen or Frenchwomen would be appropriate).
In common parlance, plural simply means "more than one". A quantity of one may sometimes be grammatically inflected as plural.
Any quantity that includes decimal precision is plural. This includes 1 followed by any number of zeros. It is normal to say 1.0 gallons per flush, for instance, 0.6 units, or 3.3 children per couple, not *1.0 gallon, *0.6 unit, or *3.3 child per couple.
Fractions are themselves singular or plural depending on the numerator (e.g. one eighth vs two eighths), and whatever they apply to can be singular or plural (e.g., three-quarters of the apple(s)), depending on whether it refers to a fraction of a single item or many items.
Any zero quantity can be plural or singular, though plural is the default. So the following plurals are standard.
However, if it has already been established that one item was in question, one can use no to deny that such an item exists in the singular:
The interrogative pronouns who and what generally take singular agreement, e.g.
In some cases, a plural verb can be used when the answer is expected to be plural
When followed by a plural predicative complement, a plural verb must be used:
Following which, a singular verb suggests a singular answer, and a plural verb suggests a plural answer:
When asking How many?, plural is standard (e.g. How many bananas? not *How many banana?), even if the expected answer is only one.
4a plural counsel (1) : a lawyer ...
But note that 'Unixen' and 'Twenexen' are never used. It has been suggested that this is because '-ix' and '-ex' are sometimes Latin singular endings that attract a Latinate plural.