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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 ...
), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical category of number. The plural of a
noun A noun () is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Organism, Living creatures (including people, alive, de ...

noun
typically denotes a
quantity Quantity is a property that can exist as a multitude or magnitude, which illustrate discontinuity and continuity. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more", "less", or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value in terms of a unit of measu ...
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 Singular may refer to: * Singular, the grammatical number In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb agreement (linguistics), agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one", ...
'' 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
verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being ( ...
s,
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s and
pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word or a group of words that one may substitute for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the part of speech, parts of ...

pronoun
s, 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 Dual or Duals may refer to: Paired/two things * Dual (mathematics), a notion of paired concepts that mirror one another ** Dual (category theory), a formalization of mathematical duality ** . . . see more cases in :Duality theories * Dual ...
(denoting exactly two of something) or other systems of number categories. However, in
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
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 In algebra Algebra (from ar, الجبر, lit=reunion of broken parts, bonesetting, translit=al-jabr) is one of the areas of mathematics, broad areas of mathematics, together with number theory, geometry and mathematical analysis, analysis. I ...
(used for indicating two objects). Some other grammatical numbers present in various languages include
trial In law, a trial is a coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information (in the form of evidence Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion, because evident things are undoubted. There are ...
(for three objects) and
paucal In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category A grammatical category or grammatical feature is a property of items within the grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is ...
(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 China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
and
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
lack any significant grammatical number at all, though they are likely to have plural
personal pronoun Personal pronouns are pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas ...
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 The Austronesian languages (, , , ) are a , widely spoken throughout , , the islands of the and (by ). There are also a number of speakers in . They are spoken by about 386 million people (4.9% of the ). This makes it the fifth-largest languag ...
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
Slavic
and
Baltic languages The Baltic languages belong to the Balto-Slavic The Balto-Slavic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It traditionally comprises the Baltic languages, Baltic and Slavic languages. Baltic and Slavic languages sha ...

Baltic languages
(apart from those that preserve the dual number, such as
Slovene Slovene or Slovenian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Slovenia, a country in Central Europe * Slovene language, a South Slavic language mainly spoken in Slovenia * Slovenes, an ethno-linguistic group mainly living in Slovenia * Sla ...
). These are known as "pseudo-dual" and "pseudo-paucal" grammatical numbers. For example,
Polish Polish may refer to: * Anything from or related to Poland Poland ( pl, Polska ), officially the Republic of Poland ( pl, Rzeczpospolita Polska, links=no ), is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Pol ...
and
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
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 Polish may refer to: * Anything from or related to Poland Poland ( pl, Polska ), officially the Republic of Poland ( pl, Rzeczpospolita Polska, links=no ), is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Pol ...
, the noun "oko", among other meanings, may refer to a human or animal
eye Eyes are organs of the visual system The visual system comprises the sensory organ (the eye) and parts of the central nervous system (the retina containing photoreceptor cells, the optic nerve, the optic tract and the visual cortex) which ...

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 Modern Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew ( ), is the standard form of the spoke ...
.
Biblical Hebrew Biblical Hebrew ( ''Ivrit Miqra'it'' or ''Leshon ha-Miqra''), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew language, Hebrew, a language in the Canaanite languages, Canaanite branch of Semitic languages, Semitic languages, spoken b ...
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 In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
''. 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 Ghil'ad Zuckermann ( he, גלעד צוקרמן, ; ) is an Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar, إِسْرَائِيل), officially known as the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, '), is a country in W ...
uses the term ''superplural'' to refer to massive plural. He argues that the Australian Aboriginal
Barngarla language Barngarla, formerly known as Parnkalla, is an Aboriginal language of Eyre Peninsula The Eyre Peninsula is a triangular peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its ...
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-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological c ...

emu
" (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 Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
, including the addition of
affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most language ...
es, like the English ''-(e)s'' ending, or
ablaut In linguistics, the Indo-European ablaut (, from Standard High German, German '':wikt:Ablaut#German, Ablaut'' ) is a system of apophony in the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). An example of ablaut in English is the Germanic strong verb, stron ...
, 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 Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

reduplication
, 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 * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridge (firearms), cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or ...
system, such as
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...

Latin
and
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
, 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 inflection, inflected for grammatical number, meaning that, if they are of the countable noun, countable type, they generally have different forms for Grammatical number, singular and plural. This article discusses the variety of ...
). 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 A noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a phrase In everyday speech, a phrase is any group of words, often carrying a special idiomatic meaning; in this sense it is synonymous with expression. In Linguistics#Analysis, linguistic analysis, a phrase i ...
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 * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridge (firearms), cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or ...
,
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic by Logical consequence, drawing conclusions from new or existing information, with the ...
and
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Althoug ...
, as well as marking of categories belonging to the word itself (such as tense of verbs, degree of
comparison File:Comparison of dietary fat composition.png, A chart showing a comparison of qualities of a variety of cooking oils, aimed at helping the reader decide which choices would be best for their health. Comparison or comparing is the act of evaluat ...
of adjectives, etc.)
Verb A verb () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many la ...
s often agree with their subject in number (as well as in person and sometimes gender). Examples of plural forms are the ''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 Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
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 In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
s – examples are the French plural definite article ''les'', and the English
demonstratives Demonstratives ( abbreviated ) are word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), mean ...
''these'' and ''those''. It is common for
pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word or a group of words that one may substitute for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the part of speech, parts of ...

pronoun
s, particularly
personal pronoun Personal pronouns are pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas ...
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 A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the ...

English personal pronouns
), and again ''these'' and ''those'' (when used as
demonstrative pronoun Demonstratives ( abbreviated ) are word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), mean ...
s). 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 noun In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
s, 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 The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It ...
''. 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 Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
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 A numeral system (or system of numeration) is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is t ...
s, even if less than one, as in ''0.3 metres'', ''0.9 children''.
Common fraction A fraction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
s less than one tend to be used with singular expressions: ''half (of) a loaf'', ''two-thirds of a mile''.
Negative number In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). I ...
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 Synesis is a traditional grammatical/rhetorical term derived from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Eu ...
, 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 In traditional grammar, a pa ...
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 The royal ''we'', or majestic plural (), is the use of a plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical number, grammatical category of number. The plural ...
* Romance plurals *
Pluractionality Pluractionality, or verbal number, if not used in its aspectual sense, is a grammatical device that indicates that the action or participants of a verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of s ...
* Partitive plural * Plural quantification


Notes


Further reading

*Corbett, Greville. ''Number'' (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics).
Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (CUP) is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledg ...
, 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