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 ...

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 ( ...
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 ...

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 ...

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 ...
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 ...

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 of Sursurunga language, Sursurunga and Lihir language, 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 languages, Slavic and Baltic languages (apart from those that preserve the dual number, such as Slovene language, Slovene). These are known as "pseudo-dual" and "pseudo-paucal" grammatical numbers. For example, Polish language, Polish and Russian language, 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 language, 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 Grammatical gender#Hebrew, 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 [each of] the 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''.Ghil'ad Zuckermann, Zuckermann, Ghil'ad 2020, w:en:Revivalistics, ''Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond''
Oxford University Press
(ISBN 9780199812790 / ISBN 9780199812776)
For example: *''wárraidya'' "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, including the addition of affixes, like the English ''-(e)s'' ending, 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, 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 grammatical case, case system, such as Latin and Russian language, 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). 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 phrases). Such a word may in fact have a number of plural forms, to allow for simultaneous agreement within other categories such as case (grammar), case, person (grammar), person and grammatical gender, gender, as well as marking of categories belonging to the word itself (such as verb tense, tense of verbs, degree of comparison (grammar), comparison of adjectives, etc.) Verbs often agree with their subject (grammar), subject in number (as well as in person and sometimes gender). Examples of plural forms are the French language, French ''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). Adjectives 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 (linguistics), determiners – examples are the French plural definite article ''les'', and the English demonstrative adjective, demonstratives ''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 ...

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), 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''. 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 language, 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 fractions, 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 numbers 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 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


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)
{{Authority control Grammatical number