Plural
Overview
 
In linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, plurality or [a] plural is a concept of quantity
Quantity
Quantity is a property that can exist as a magnitude or multitude. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more" or "less" or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value in terms of a unit of measurement. Quantity is among the basic classes of things along with quality, substance, change, and relation...

 (i.e., grammatical number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

) representing a value of more-than-one. Typically applied to noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

s, a plural word or marker (morpheme
Morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

) is used to distinguish a value other than the default quantity of a noun, which is typically one. Plurality is a linguistic universal
Linguistic universal
A linguistic universal is a pattern that occurs systematically across natural languages, potentially true for all of them. For example, All languages have nouns and verbs, or If a language is spoken, it has consonants and vowels. Research in this area of linguistics is closely tied to the study of...

, represented variously among the languages as a separate word (free morpheme), an affix (bound morpheme
Bound morpheme
In morphology, a bound morpheme is a morpheme that only appears as part of a larger word; a free morpheme is one that can stand alone.Affixes are always bound. English language affixes are either prefixes or suffixes. E.g., -ment in "shipment" and pre- in "prefix"...

), or by other morphological indications such as stress or implicit markers/context.

In the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, singular and plural are the only usual grammatical numbers, with minor dual
Dual (grammatical number)
Dual is a grammatical number that some languages use in addition to singular and plural. When a noun or pronoun appears in dual form, it is interpreted as referring to precisely two of the entities identified by the noun or pronoun...

 exceptions ("both", "either", etc.)

A plural is commonly abbreviated pl. in dictionaries.
Encyclopedia
In linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, plurality or [a] plural is a concept of quantity
Quantity
Quantity is a property that can exist as a magnitude or multitude. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more" or "less" or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value in terms of a unit of measurement. Quantity is among the basic classes of things along with quality, substance, change, and relation...

 (i.e., grammatical number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

) representing a value of more-than-one. Typically applied to noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

s, a plural word or marker (morpheme
Morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

) is used to distinguish a value other than the default quantity of a noun, which is typically one. Plurality is a linguistic universal
Linguistic universal
A linguistic universal is a pattern that occurs systematically across natural languages, potentially true for all of them. For example, All languages have nouns and verbs, or If a language is spoken, it has consonants and vowels. Research in this area of linguistics is closely tied to the study of...

, represented variously among the languages as a separate word (free morpheme), an affix (bound morpheme
Bound morpheme
In morphology, a bound morpheme is a morpheme that only appears as part of a larger word; a free morpheme is one that can stand alone.Affixes are always bound. English language affixes are either prefixes or suffixes. E.g., -ment in "shipment" and pre- in "prefix"...

), or by other morphological indications such as stress or implicit markers/context.

In the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, singular and plural are the only usual grammatical numbers, with minor dual
Dual (grammatical number)
Dual is a grammatical number that some languages use in addition to singular and plural. When a noun or pronoun appears in dual form, it is interpreted as referring to precisely two of the entities identified by the noun or pronoun...

 exceptions ("both", "either", etc.)

A plural is commonly abbreviated pl. in dictionaries. In part-of-speech tagging
Part-of-speech tagging
In corpus linguistics, part-of-speech tagging , also called grammatical tagging or word-category disambiguation, is the process of marking up a word in a text as corresponding to a particular part of speech, based on both its definition, as well as its context—i.e...

 it has other notation which distinguish different types of plurals based on the grammatical and semantic context.

English

In English, the plural is usually formed with the addition of -s (e.g., one cat, two cats; one chair, two chairs) or -es (e.g., one bush, two bushes; one itch, two itches). Generally, -s is added to all nouns that end in a voiceless consonant, vowels, or voiced non-sibilants, whereas -es is added for nouns ending in a sibilant sound. Nouns that end in e are a noted exception; though e may form a sibilant sound, -s is used (e.g.,. one tree, two trees; one bee, two bees).

Some plural forms require more noticeable changes in word structure. Most words ending in a y preceded by a consonant are pluralised with ies (e.g., one lady, two ladies; one cherry, two cherries). Some words ending in f are pluralised with -ves (e.g., one leaf; two leaves; exception: one roof; two roofs). Words ending in x are often pluralised with -ces (e.g., one matrix, two matrices; one index, two indices). Words ending in us often replace the us with -i (e.g., one cactus, two cacti; one fungus, two fungi). A subset of words ending in um or on are pluralised by replacing with -a (e.g., one forum, two fora; one criterion, two criteria).

Other variations occur where vowels and consonants change in the middle structure of the word. Such examples are, (1 die; 2 dice), (1 goose; 2 geese) and, (1 mouse; 2 mice).

A small class of words have identical singular and plural forms: e.g., one sheep, two sheep; one aircraft, two aircraft.

See English plural#Irregular plurals for more examples of irregular pluralisation.

Other languages

In many languages, there is also a dual number
Dual (grammatical number)
Dual is a grammatical number that some languages use in addition to singular and plural. When a noun or pronoun appears in dual form, it is interpreted as referring to precisely two of the entities identified by the noun or pronoun...

 (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 measure word
Measure word
In linguistics, measure words are words that are used in combination with a numeral to indicate an amount of some noun. They denote a unit or measurement and are used with nouns that are not countable. For instance, in English, is a mass noun and thus one cannot say *"three muds", but one can say...

s such as Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 and Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 lack any significant grammatical number at all, though they are likely to have plural personal pronoun
Personal pronoun
Personal pronouns are pronouns used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. All known languages contain personal pronouns.- English personal pronouns :English in common use today has seven personal pronouns:*first-person singular...

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. It should also be noted that 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
Austronesian languages
The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia that are spoken by about 386 million people. It is on par with Indo-European, Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic and Uralic as one of the...

 of Sursurunga
Sursurunga language
-Number:Sursurunga is famous for having a five-way grammatical number distinction. The numbers beside singular, dual, and plural have been called trial and quadral ; however, these numbers, which only occur on pronouns, indicate a minimum of three and four, not exactly three and four the way the...

 and Lihir
Lihir language
The Lihir language is an Austronesian language spoken in the Lihir island group, in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. It is notable for having 5 levels of grammatical number: singular, dual, trial, paucal and plural. It is questionable whether the trial is indeed trial or whether it is...

 have singular, dual, paucal, greater paucal, and plural. Such languages as these have the most complex grammatical number in the world.

An interesting difference from Romance/Germanic languages is found in some Slavic
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

 and Baltic languages
Baltic languages
The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe...

. Here, the final digits of the number determine its form. Though most of the modern Slavic languages lack dual form, they do have traces of dual form. For example, Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 has singular and plural, and a special form (paucal) for numbers where the last digit is 2, 3 or 4, (excluding endings of 12, 13 and 14). Russian uses plural form of words ending like genitive singular form for numbers where the last digit is 2-4 (but not endings of 12, 13 and 14) and genitive plural form of words for all other numbers. In addition, Slovene preserved pure dual, using it for numbers ending in 2. In Serbo-Croatian
Serbo-Croatian language
Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croat, less commonly Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian , is a South Slavic language with multiple standards and the primary language of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro...

 (in addition to the paucal for numbers 2–4), several nouns have alternate forms for counting plural and collective plural (the latter being treated as a collective noun). For example, there are two ways to say leaves: lišće (collective) is used in "Leaves are falling from the trees", but listovi (counting) is used in "Those are some beautiful leaves".
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic or Old Church Slavic was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek...

 (also known as Old Slavic), which is close to Proto-Slavic
Proto-Slavic language
Proto-Slavic is the proto-language from which Slavic languages later emerged. It was spoken before the seventh century AD. As with most other proto-languages, no attested writings have been found; the language has been reconstructed by applying the comparative method to all the attested Slavic...

, had dual form not only for nouns, but also for verbs, almost like Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

.
Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, though high inflectional and close to Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

, lacks dual form and some say that the ancestor of the Italic languages
Italic languages
The Italic subfamily is a member of the Indo-European language family. It includes the Romance languages derived from Latin , and a number of extinct languages of the Italian Peninsula, including Umbrian, Oscan, Faliscan, and Latin.In the past various definitions of "Italic" have prevailed...

 or even of Italic and Celtic languages
Celtic languages
The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family...

 had lost it.

Abbreviations

To form the plural of an abbreviation, a number, or a capital letter used as a noun, simply add a lowercase s to the end.
  • A group of MPs
  • The roaring '20s
  • Mind your Ps and Qs


To indicate the plural of the abbreviation of a unit of measure, the same form is used as in the singular.
  • 1 lb. or 20 lb.
  • 1 ft. or 16 ft.
  • 1 min. or 45 min.


When an abbreviation contains more than one full point, Hart's Rules
Hart's Rules
Hart's Rules for Compositors and Readers at the University Press, Oxford was an authoritative reference book and style guide published in England by Oxford University Press...

recommends to put the s after the final one.
  • Ph.D.s
  • M.Phil.s
  • the d.t.s

However, subject to any house style or consistency requirement, the same plurals may be rendered less formally as:
  • PhDs
  • MPhils
  • the DTs. (This is the recommended form in the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors.)


According to Hart's Rules, an apostrophe may be used in rare cases where clarity calls for it, for example when letters or symbols are referred to as objects.
  • The x's of the equation
  • Dot the i's and cross the t's

However, the apostrophe can be dispensed with if the items are set in italics or quotes:
  • The xs of the equation
  • Dot the 'i's and cross the 't's


In Latin, and continuing to the derivative forms in European languages as well as English, single-letter abbreviations had the plural being a doubling of the letter for note-taking. Most of these deal with writing and publishing. A few longer abbreviations use this as well.
Singular abbreviation Singular Word Plural abbreviation Plural Word Discipline
d. didot dd. didots typography
f. following line or page ff. following lines or pages notes
h. hand hh. hands horse height
l. line ll. lines notes
MS manuscript MSS manuscripts notes
op. opus opp. opera notes
p. page pp. pages notes
P. pope PP. popes
s. (or §) section ss. (or §§) sections notes
v. volume vv. volumes notes

Zero

Languages having only a singular and plural form may still differ in their treatment of zero. For example, in English, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 and Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, the plural form is used for zero or more than one, and the singular for one thing only. By contrast, in French, the singular form is used for zero.

Instances

In English, mass noun
Mass noun
In linguistics, a mass noun is a noun that refers to some entity as an undifferentiated unit rather than as something with discrete subsets. Non-count nouns are best identified by their syntactic properties, and especially in contrast with count nouns. The semantics of mass nouns are highly...

s and abstract nouns have plurals in less common instances. The phrase by the waters of Babylon is merely poetic, but the mass noun water takes a plural to signify the water drawn from different sources, with different trace minerals, as in the phrase: Different waters make for different beers. Similarly, the abstract noun physics is usually a vast unitary concept, but in its recent meaning of computer game subroutines, a plural sense is possible for different workings of physics, though without a change in inflection: Throughout the history of the game series, the physics have improved.

POS tagging

In part-of-speech tagging
Part-of-speech tagging
In corpus linguistics, part-of-speech tagging , also called grammatical tagging or word-category disambiguation, is the process of marking up a word in a text as corresponding to a particular part of speech, based on both its definition, as well as its context—i.e...

 it has other notation which distinguish different types of plurals based on the 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

  • Collective number
    Collective number
    In linguistics, singulative number and collective number are terms used when the grammatical number for multiple items is the unmarked form of a noun, and the noun is specially marked to indicate a single item...

  • Dual (grammatical number)
    Dual (grammatical number)
    Dual is a grammatical number that some languages use in addition to singular and plural. When a noun or pronoun appears in dual form, it is interpreted as referring to precisely two of the entities identified by the noun or pronoun...

  • English plural
    English plural
    In the English language, nouns are inflected for grammatical number —that is, singular or plural. This article discusses the variety of ways in which English plurals are formed for nouns...

  • Grammatical number
    Grammatical number
    In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

  • Plurale tantum
    Plurale tantum
    A plurale tantum is a noun that appears only in the plural form and does not have a singular variant for referring to a single object...

  • Pluralis majestatis
    Pluralis majestatis
    The majestic plural , is the use of a plural pronoun to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch, bishop, or pope...

  • Romance plurals
    Romance plurals
    Plurals in Romance languages appear to be formed in two quite different ways:#By adding -s ; also in Sardinian....

  • Pluractionality
    Pluractionality
    Pluractionality, or verbal number, is a grammatical device that indicates that the action or participants of a verb are plural. This differs from frequentive or iterative aspects in that the latter have no implication for the number of participants of the verb.Often a pluractional transitive verb...

  • Partitive plural
    Partitive plural
    Partitive plural is a grammatical number that is used to modify a noun which represents a part of some whole amount, as opposed to the comprehensive plural, used when the noun represents the total amount of something. This plural form is used in the Finnish language, and its use in this language...

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