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The plural (sometimes
abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for example, the word ''abbrevia ...
pl., pl, or ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical category of number. The plural of a noun typically denotes a quantity greater than the default quantity represented by that noun. This default quantity is most commonly one (a form that represents this default quantity of one is said to be of '' singular'' number). Therefore, plurals most typically denote two or more of something, although they may also denote fractional, zero or negative amounts. An example of a plural is the English word ''cats'', which corresponds to the singular ''cat''. Words of other types, such as verbs,
adjective In linguistics, an adjective (abbreviated ) is a word that generally modifies a noun or noun phrase or describes its referent. Its semantic role is to change information given by the noun. Traditionally, adjectives were considered one of the ma ...
s and pronouns, also frequently have distinct plural forms, which are used in
agreement Agreement may refer to: Agreements between people and organizations * Gentlemen's agreement, not enforceable by law * Trade agreement, between countries * Consensus, a decision-making process * Contract, enforceable in a court of law ** Meeting of ...
with the number of their associated nouns. Some languages also have a dual (denoting exactly two of something) or other systems of number categories. However, in
English English usually refers to: * English language * English people English may also refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * ''English'', an adjective for something of, from, or related to England ** English national i ...
and many other languages, singular and plural are the only grammatical numbers, except for possible remnants of dual number in pronouns such as ''both'' and ''either''.


Use in systems of grammatical number

In many languages, there is also a dual number (used for indicating two objects). Some other grammatical numbers present in various languages include trial (for three objects) and paucal (for an imprecise but small number of objects). In languages with dual, trial, or paucal numbers, plural refers to numbers higher than those. However, numbers besides singular, plural, and (to a lesser extent) dual are extremely rare. Languages with numerical classifiers such as
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China * Chinese people, people of Chinese nationality, citizenship, and/or ethnicity **''Zhonghua minzu'', the supra-ethnic concept of the Chinese nation ** List of ethnic groups in China, people of va ...
and
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan, an island country in East Asia * Japanese language, spoken mainly in Japan * Japanese people, the ethnic group that identifies with Japan through ancestry or culture ** Japanese diaspor ...
lack any significant grammatical number at all, though they are likely to have plural
personal pronoun Personal pronouns are pronouns that are associated primarily with a particular grammatical person – first person (as ''I''), second person (as ''you''), or third person (as ''he'', ''she'', ''it'', ''they''). Personal pronouns may also take di ...
s. Some languages (like Mele-Fila) distinguish between a plural and a greater plural. A greater plural refers to an abnormally large number for the object of discussion. The distinction between the paucal, the plural, and the greater plural is often relative to the type of object under discussion. For example, in discussing oranges, the paucal number might imply fewer than ten, whereas for the population of a country, it might be used for a few hundred thousand. The Austronesian languages of Sursurunga and Lihir have extremely complex grammatical number systems, with singular, dual, paucal, greater paucal, and plural. Traces of the dual and paucal can be found in some Slavic and Baltic languages (apart from those that preserve the dual number, such as Slovene). These are known as "pseudo-dual" and "pseudo-paucal" grammatical numbers. For example, Polish and Russian use different forms of nouns with the numerals 2, 3, or 4 (and higher numbers ending with these) than with the numerals 5, 6, etc. (genitive singular in Russian and nominative plural in Polish in the former case, genitive plural in the latter case). Also some nouns may follow different declension patterns when denoting objects which are typically referred to in pairs. For example, in Polish, the noun "oko", among other meanings, may refer to a human or animal eye or to a drop of oil on water. The plural of "oko" in the first meaning is "oczy" (even, if actually referring to more than two eyes), while in the second - "oka" (even, if actually referring to exactly two drops). Traces of dual can also be found in Modern Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew had grammatical dual via the suffix as opposed to for masculine words. Contemporary use of a true dual number in Hebrew is chiefly used in words regarding time and numbers. However, in Biblical and Modern Hebrew, the pseudo-dual as plural of "eyes" "eye / eyes" as well as "hands", "legs" and several other words are retained. For further information, see . Certain nouns in some languages have the unmarked form referring to multiple items, with an inflected form referring to a single item. These cases are described with the terms ''collective number'' and '' singulative number''. Some languages may possess a massive plural and a numerative plural, the first implying a large mass and the second implying division. For example, "the waters of the Atlantic Ocean" versus, "the waters of ach ofthe Great Lakes". Ghil'ad Zuckermann uses the term ''superplural'' to refer to massive plural. He argues that the Australian Aboriginal Barngarla language has four grammatical numbers: singular, dual, plural and ''superplural''. Zuckermann, Ghil'ad 2020, ''Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond''
Oxford University Press
(ISBN 9780199812790 / ISBN 9780199812776)
For example: *''wárraidya'' "
emu The emu () (''Dromaius novaehollandiae'') is the second-tallest living bird after its ratite relative the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the largest native bird and the only extant member of the genus '' Dromaius''. The ...
" (singular) *''wárraidyalbili'' "two emus" (dual) *''wárraidyarri'' "emus" (plural) *''wárraidyailyarranha'' "a lot of emus", "heaps of emus" (superplural)


Formation of plurals

A given language may make plural forms of nouns by various types of
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, animacy, and ...
, including the addition of
affix In linguistics, an affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word or word form. Affixes may be derivational, like English ''-ness'' and ''pre-'', or inflectional, like English plural ''-s'' and past tense ''-ed''. They a ...
es, like the English ''-(e)s'' and ''-ies'' suffixes, or ablaut, as in the derivation of the plural ''geese'' from ''goose'', or a combination of the two. Some languages may also form plurals by
reduplication In linguistics, reduplication is a morphological process in which the root or stem of a word (or part of it) or even the whole word is repeated exactly or with a slight change. The classic observation on the semantics of reduplication is Edwa ...
, but not as productive. It may be that some nouns are not marked for plural, like ''sheep'' and ''series'' in English. In languages which also have a
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Cartridge case or casing, a firearm cartridge component * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or attaché case, a narrow box to ...
system, such as
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of ...
and Russian, nouns can have not just one plural form but several, corresponding to the various cases. The inflection might affect multiple words, not just the noun; and the noun itself need not become plural as such, other parts of the expression indicate the plurality. In English, the most common formation of plural nouns is by adding an ''-s'' suffix to the singular noun. (For details and different cases, see
English plurals 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 form ...
). Just like in English, noun plurals in French, Spanish and Portuguese are also typically formed by adding an ''-s'' suffix to the lemma form, sometimes combining it with an additional vowel (in French, however, this plural suffix is often not pronounced). This construction is also found in German and Dutch, but only in some nouns. Suffixing is cross-linguistically the most common method of forming plurals. In Welsh, the reference form, or default quantity, of some nouns is plural, and the singular form is formed from that, eg ''llygod'', mice; ''llygoden'', mouse; ''erfin'', turnips; ''erfinen'', turnip.


Plural forms of other parts of speech

In many languages, words other than nouns may take plural forms, these being used by way of grammatical agreement with plural nouns (or
noun phrase In linguistics, a noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a phrase that has a noun or pronoun as its head or performs the same grammatical function as a noun. Noun phrases are very common cross-linguistically, and they may be the most frequently oc ...
s). Such a word may in fact have a number of plural forms, to allow for simultaneous agreement within other categories such as
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Cartridge case or casing, a firearm cartridge component * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or attaché case, a narrow box to ...
,
person A person ( : people) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as kinship, ownership of property, ...
and gender, as well as marking of categories belonging to the word itself (such as tense of verbs, degree of
comparison Comparison or comparing is the act of evaluating two or more things by determining the relevant, comparable characteristics of each thing, and then determining which characteristics of each are similar to the other, which are different, and t ...
of adjectives, etc.) Verbs often agree with their subject in number (as well as in person and sometimes gender). Examples of plural forms are the
French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France ** French language, which originated in France, and its various dialects and accents ** French people, a nation and ethnic group identified with France ...
''mangeons, mangez, mangent'' – respectively the first-, second- and third-person plural of the present tense of the verb ''manger''. In English a distinction is made in the third person between forms such as ''eats'' (singular) and ''eat'' (plural).
Adjective In linguistics, an adjective (abbreviated ) is a word that generally modifies a noun or noun phrase or describes its referent. Its semantic role is to change information given by the noun. Traditionally, adjectives were considered one of the ma ...
s may agree with the noun they modify; examples of plural forms are the French ''petits'' and ''petites'' (the masculine plural and feminine plural respectively of ''petit''). The same applies to some
determiner A determiner, also called determinative (abbreviated ), is a word, phrase, or affix that occurs together with a noun or noun phrase and generally serves to express the reference of that noun or noun phrase in the context. That is, a determiner m ...
s – examples are the French plural definite article ''les'', and the English
demonstratives Demonstratives (abbreviated ) are words, such as ''this'' and ''that'', used to indicate which entities are being referred to and to distinguish those entities from others. They are typically deictic; their meaning depending on a particular frame ...
''these'' and ''those''. It is common for pronouns, particularly
personal pronoun Personal pronouns are pronouns that are associated primarily with a particular grammatical person – first person (as ''I''), second person (as ''you''), or third person (as ''he'', ''she'', ''it'', ''they''). Personal pronouns may also take di ...
s, to have distinct plural forms. Examples in English are ''we'' (''us'', etc.) and ''they'' (''them'' etc.; see
English personal pronouns The English personal pronouns are a subset of English pronouns taking various forms according to number, person, case and natural gender. Modern English has very little inflection of nouns or adjectives, to the point where some authors descr ...
), and again ''these'' and ''those'' (when used as demonstrative pronouns). In Welsh, a number of common prepositions also inflect to agree with the number, person, and sometimes gender of the noun or pronoun they govern.


Nouns lacking plural or singular form

Certain nouns do not form plurals. A large class of such nouns in many languages is that of uncountable nouns, representing mass or abstract concepts such as ''air'', ''information'', ''physics''. However, many nouns of this type also have countable meanings or other contexts in which a plural can be used; for example ''water'' can take a plural when it means water from a particular source (''different waters make for different beers'') and in expressions like ''by the waters of Babylon''. There are also nouns found exclusively or almost exclusively in the plural, such as the English ''scissors''. These are referred to with the term ''
plurale tantum A ''plurale tantum'' (Latin for "plural only"; ) is a noun that appears only in the plural form and does not have a singular variant for referring to a single object. In a less strict usage of the term, it can also refer to nouns whose singular f ...
''. Occasionally, a plural form can pull double duty as the singular form (or vice versa), as has happened with the word "data".


Usage of the plural

The plural is used, as a rule, for quantities other than one (and other than those quantities represented by other grammatical numbers, such as dual, which a language may possess). Thus it is frequently used with numbers higher than one (''two cats'', ''101 dogs'', ''four and a half hours'') and for unspecified amounts of countable things (''some men'', ''several cakes'', ''how many lumps?'', ''birds have feathers''). The precise rules for the use of plurals, however, depends on the language – for example Russian uses the genitive singular rather than the plural after certain numbers (see above). Treatments differ in expressions of zero quantity: English often uses the plural in such expressions as ''no injuries'' and ''zero points'', although ''no'' (and ''zero'' in some contexts) may also take a singular. In French, the singular form is used after ''zéro''. English also tends to use the plural with
decimal fraction The decimal numeral system (also called the base-ten positional numeral system and denary or decanary) is the standard system for denoting integer and non-integer numbers. It is the extension to non-integer numbers of the Hindu–Arabic numera ...
s, even if less than one, as in ''0.3 metres'', ''0.9 children''. Common fractions less than one tend to be used with singular expressions: ''half (of) a loaf'', ''two-thirds of a mile''.
Negative number In mathematics, a negative number represents an opposite. In the real number system, a negative number is a number that is less than zero. Negative numbers are often used to represent the magnitude of a loss or deficiency. A debt that is owed m ...
s are usually treated the same as the corresponding positive ones: ''minus one degree'', ''minus two degrees''. Again, rules on such matters differ between languages. In some languages, including English, expressions that appear to be singular in form may be treated as plural if they are used with a plural sense, as in ''the government are agreed''. The reverse is also possible: ''the United States is a powerful country''. See synesis, and also .


POS tagging

In
part-of-speech tagging In corpus linguistics, part-of-speech tagging (POS tagging or PoS tagging or POST), also called grammatical tagging is the process of marking up a word in a text (corpus) as corresponding to a particular part of speech, based on both its definiti ...
notation, tags are used to distinguish different types of plurals based on their grammatical and semantic context. Resolution varies, for example the Penn-Treebank tagset (~36 tags) has two tags: ''NNS - noun, plural,'' and ''NPS - Proper noun, plural'', while the CLAWS 7 tagset (~149 tags) uses six: ''NN2 - plural common noun, NNL2 - plural locative noun, NNO2 - numeral noun, plural, NNT2 - temporal noun, plural, NNU2 - plural unit of measurement, NP2 - plural proper noun.''


See also

* Pluralis majestatis * Romance plurals * Pluractionality * Partitive plural * Plural quantification


Notes


Further reading

*Corbett, Greville. ''Number'' (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics). Cambridge University Press, 2000. *Huddleston, Rodney and Pullum, Geoffrey K., ''The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language'', Cambridge University Press, Suffolk, UK, 2002 *Curme, George O., ''A Grammar of the English Language, Volume 1: Parts of Speech'', D.C. Heath and Company, 1935 *Opdycke, John B., ''Harper’s English Grammar'', Harper & Row, New York, New York, 1965 *Jespersen, Otto, ''A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles, v. II'', George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., London, 1928 *McDavid, Raven I. Jr. et al., ''The Plurals of Nouns of Measure in Spoken American English'', Fries Festschrift, Ann Arbor, MI, 1963 *Xu, Dan. 2012. ''Plurality and classifiers across languages in China.'' Berlin: de Gruyter.


External links


GNU gettext utilities (section 11.2.6 - Additional functions for plural forms)
(Treatment of zero and the plurality based on the final digits)
http://corpus.byu.edu/coca
{{Authority control Grammatical number