Talk:English plurals

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Is "house" unique ?[edit]

Is there any noun other than "house" that has /s/ in the singular and /zɨz/ in the plural? I can't find one. Grover cleveland (talk) 19:58, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

It's the only one: I found a source and added it. Grover cleveland (talk) 23:30, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Would 'blouse/blouses' not qualify as another? How about 'grouse/grouses'? It seems this section draws a hasty conclusion. - Nick — Preceding unsigned comment added by 173.179.33.60 (talk) 16:12, 19 September 2013 (UTC)

I was just going to point this out myself. The counter-example that came to my mind was 'spouse - spouses'. 'Blouse', on the other hand, has a z sound in the singular, and in the case of 'grouses', I've never heard the plural pronounced with a z rather than an s. However, where I come from (England), 'spouse' certainly rhymes with 'house' and 'spouses' with 'houses'. 90.245.25.106 (talk) 10:38, 14 April 2014 (UTC)

Agreed, 'spouse'/'spouses' and 'house'/'houses' definitely act alike in my region's usual pronunciation. But I just realized, though, that neither plural-form pronunciation would draw my attention if I heard it (spaʊsɨz or spaʊzɨz) (both feel acceptable), even though haʊsɨz sounds nonstandard. By the way, where I come from (eastern U.S.), 'blouse' usually has the unvoiced sound (/s/) in the singular (I see that Merriam-Webster lists both, "\ˈblau̇s also ˈblau̇z\"), but it has it in the plural, too (/blaʊsɨz/)), so it's not quite in that spouse/house subset in that regard. I've never heard "grouses" spoken in conversation that I recall. Quercus solaris (talk) 04:00, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
To me haʊsɨz is a noun and haʊzɨz is a verb. Hallaman3 (talk) 03:17, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
It's very interesting that you point out that distinction. I can "hear" exactly what you mean, even though I would use /zɨz/ for both plural noun and verb. As far as I know, the verb's consonant is always voiced no matter one's accent ("the metal housings haʊz the components; the metal housing haʊzɨz the components"), but yet, as for the noun's consonant being always unvoiced, that apparently may depend on accent or idiolect. So if a person's brain treats the noun's consonant as always [supposed to be] unvoiced, then it can treat the word containing the voiced sound as "always [supposed to be] verb". Of course, if it hears an utterance that "violates" the "supposed to be" part (e.g., hearing a different accent), it can still easily understand what was meant, but it would not produce that utterance in its own accent ... Anyway, thanks for pointing out the noun/verb distinction. Quercus solaris (talk) 20:43, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Our lives[edit]

Why is "our lives" considered correct (and spreading like fire in dry grass), but "our lazinesses", or "our hungers" is not? ~Ben Jamin —Preceding unsigned comment added by 193.71.38.142 (talk) 11:00, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

"Life" is a noun that can be quantified: "A cat has 9 lives" while "laziness" and "hunger" cannot be quantified. Cats may be hungry all the time and lazy to boot, but they don't have 9 hungers or 9 lazinesses. Wschart (talk) 21:18, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Untrue. One could easily talk of 'hungers' or 'lazinesses'--- "our many lazinesses: not taking out the trash, or doing the dishes, etc." —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.164.96.248 (talk) 23:27, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

I think what your talking about can be parsed as a shortened version of "type(s) of hunger/lazyness" rather than a "true" plural of those terms. You might be lazy this weekend by staying on your couch and watching sports all the time while I might be lazy by saying "Screw the lawn, I'm going to ride my bike", so I guess we could say that's two lazynesses, but I personally think that's rather contrived. Or we could use the plural to refer to the separate occurrences of the word "hunger"; by my count we have used the word "lazyness" three times (well, now four) in this section, so I guess we could talk about the "four lazynesses" here, but that is also rather contrived. How far would we want to extend this? Count up all the times we've used "lazynesses" and then enumerate so many "lazynesseses"? Any word could be pluralized in such a manner, regardless if the concept of "plural" makes any sense in the context of the meaning of that word. Wschart (talk) 18:58, 22 May 2014 (UTC)

The mass noun/count noun distinction is what is at work here. The word life has both mass and count senses. When someone says, "these are the days of our lives", they are using the count sense. Same thing with "fifteen lives were lost when the boat sank." You can say that "we lost contact because our lives gradually intersected less and less" (separate lives, count sense), but you can also say "their life together was full of joy" (which can validly be parsed as either mass sense or count sense in the singular—one shared life in a marriage). In contrast, when someone says, "Life is like a box of chocolates," they are using the mass sense of life, not the count sense. There are other words like this, too, where a noun has both mass and count senses, and both of them are commonly used. Another example is pizza: Bryan loves pizza (mass sense) but also Bryan orders a pizza every Friday night (count sense). But it's also important to understand that mass nouns can be given plural inflections, for certain reasons, in normal idiomatic ways. This is why it is possible to speak of "hungers" even though hunger's main sense is a mass-noun sense, and why it is possible to speak of "paints" and "perfumes" even though those words' main senses are mass-noun senses. In general, the plural of a mass noun means "types of that mass noun." One can speak of various hungers (various types of hunger). One can also speak of various lazinesses (various types of laziness), but this instance is not idiomatically common, which is why it sounds a little contrived, as Wschart said. That is not to say that it sounds like incomprehensible nonsense—only that it is treated as a nonce word when it rarely arises in speech. Quercus solaris (talk) 21:03, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Pair, lot, group, etc.[edit]

I think the article could use some discussion of these words. In my experience, mostly of AmE, pair is treated as plural, while lot and group are usually but not always treated as plural [a lot of them are, the group are, etc.]. Ananiujitha (talk) 06:15, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

As an American I would disagree. Pair is treated as singular. I am currently wearing a pair of pants, note the singular article "a". And in fact, that pair of pants is a pair of short, again note the use of the singular form of the verb "to be". Wschart (talk) 19:09, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
Wikipedia's coverage of the nuances of grammatical agreement can be found at the synesis (notional agreement) article, at Comparison of American and British English > Formal and notional agreement, and at a few other places that link to those. This article already falls into the latter category, because in its section English plurals > Singulars with collective meaning treated as plural it briefly discusses, and links to, synesis. But if you feel that this coverage is too "buried" within the article, you could try expanding that section or mentioning its highlights in the lede. Quercus solaris (talk) 19:40, 22 May 2014 (UTC)

Plankton singular[edit]

Under the list of animals with the same singular and plural, plankton was listed. Plankton is plural, while plankter is singular. ~Lord Marcellus 00:14, 27 July 2014 (UTC)

Bacteria[edit]

I dispute that "bacteria" is ever deemed a correct singular in English. Any naysayers before I remove it? Darmot and gilad (talk) 14:16, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

  • Go ahead. Bacteria is indeed plural. Bacteria are and if there are people saying A bacteria is, they are just speaking wrong in English. --Universal Life (talk) 21:44, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Done Darmot and gilad (talk) 07:19, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Booth[edit]

Any definitive way that the plural of booth (booths? boothes?) is pronounced? Is there a general rule for words ending in th whether ð or θ? Abductive (reasoning) 07:30, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

I would offer, in the singular a soft th, and in the plural, a hard th — | Gareth Griffith-Jones |The WelshBuzzard| — 19:27, 5 December 2014 (UTC)
Beeth? -66.44.36.178 (talk) 01:31, 7 December 2014 (UTC)
Ha, ha!
... but this is about the way we say the plural, if it is as Abductive writes it here.
Cheers! — | Gareth Griffith-Jones |The WelshBuzzard| — 09:44, 7 December 2014 (UTC)
Pronunciation of English th says: "Booth has /ð/ in the singular and hence /ðz/ in the plural for most speakers in England. In American English it has /θ/ in the singular and /θs/ or /ðz/ in the plural. This pronunciation also prevails in Scotland." I assume that "soft th" means voiced /ð/ as in either or brother; and "hard th" means unvoiced /θ/ as in ether or thin? TomS TDotO (talk) 00:22, 8 December 2014 (UTC)
Thank you, TomS TDotO, for directing me to where I can understand the phonetic symbols. — | Gareth Griffith-Jones |The WelshBuzzard| — 08:28, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

Source of pluralization by s[edit]

From what language did the use of s to form English plurals come. Most modern and medieval Germanic languages use something like en or a to form plurals. Modern French uses s. Did Old French use s? Where did French get the s? It doesn't seem very Latin. DCDuring (talk) 15:10, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

Old English already used -as, and this ending was also found in Old Saxon. I don't know how these languages got the ending, but it's not from Latin. The French/Romance -s originates from the Latin accusative plural, also -s, which in turn comes from PIE *-ns. CodeCat (talk) 15:48, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
as was not the only plural ending in OE. How did it come to dominate? Was it just that s was common to both Old French and Old English? DCDuring (talk) 16:01, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
It was already a very common ending, but the n-stem ending -en was also frequent and replaced several older endings (in children for example). But eventually -s started to drive out -en as well. CodeCat (talk) 16:21, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

Historical plural of the "arsefoot" (dabchick/little Grebe)?[edit]

Reckon worthy has an interesting talking point and example, and therefore listed on the English plurals wikipedia page.

forum.wordreference.com/.../was-there-ever-a-plural-of-arsefoot — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2A02:C7D:411:1600:226:8FF:FEDC:FD74 (talk) 21:49, 27 April 2016 (UTC)

Interrogative pronouns[edit]

My mother tongue is General American English, and I don't find it at all odd to use plural agreement with interrogative pronouns: "Who work there?" I would just erase the first paragraph of this section, except that I realize that there are different standards. TomS TDotO (talk) 14:24, 6 July 2016 (UTC)

I have changed this section a bit to give more details (and be less proscriptive).--Boson (talk) 22:37, 6 July 2016 (UTC)

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Pronouns[edit]

Somewhere near the "Plural words becoming singular" section would it be appropriate to discuss pronouns? "You" used to be plural only, but is now also the dominant singular. And there is likely a story about the increasing usage of "they" for some singular antecedents. Perhaps even the royal we is appropriate. 𝕃eegrc (talk) 21:22, 6 January 2017 (UTC)

As it is currently written, the article is about plural nouns, and the introduction has
"For plurals of pronouns, see English personal pronouns".
That sounds sensible to me, though a hatnote might be a good idea. --Boson (talk) 00:08, 7 January 2017 (UTC)

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Plurals in -ata[edit]

I should like to see it brought out that Latin plurals like errata and Greek ones like dogmata should be pronounced differently. In England at any rate there is a strong tendency for people to treat the first a in dogmata etc as a long Latin vowel. It is short, of course. Seadowns (talk) 00:17, 26 August 2017 (UTC)Seadowns (talk) 10:26, 26 August 2017 (UTC)

I have now added a note to the article to get over what I meant to say before, but wrote badly and obscurely the first time. Seadowns (talk) 11:26, 31 August 2017 (UTC)

Although I agree with you that, e.g., stig-MAH-tuh is ugly, and STIG-muh-tuh is better (and is what the 1910 OED gives), Wikipedia is not a prescriptive dictionary, and doesn't give advice. The common pronunciations seem (alas) to have changed, and the Merriam-Webster offers both pronunciations. Arguing from the Greek and Latin pronunciation isn't helpful, because English pronunciation often doesn't follow it, and is WP:OR without a source. If you can find sources (Fowler?) about the pronunciation, the appropriate way to add the information would be something like:
Modern dictionaries give both antepenultimate and penultimate stress for plurals in -ata,((refs)) but traditional grammars argue that the Greek stress, on the antepenultimate, should be followed in English as well.((refs))
Also, article contributions shouldn't be signed.
Best, --Macrakis (talk) 13:36, 31 August 2017 (UTC)
Ah, well. An elitist's lot is not a happy one. Seadowns (talk) 20:19, 31 August 2017 (UTC)
They mispronounce it in Latin too, as I discovered when I bought Pope's Selecta Poemata Italorum Qui Latine Scripserunt from an "eminent bookseller". It is inarguably a false quantity and wrong in that title. Seadowns (talk) 11:03, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
I've now added a little note about the quantity in Greek and Latin, without saying how that should affect English pronunciation. I hope it can stand. Seadowns (talk) 11:19, 11 September 2017 (UTC)
Please indent (using :::) your comments to make the discussion easier to follow.
I don't see how mentioning vowel length (and for that matter stress) in Greek and Latin contributes to this article unless you do somehow connect it to modern pronunciation. In which case, it probably belongs in English words of Greek origin, not here, since it is not specific to plurals.
You should be able to find plenty of reliable sources about the relevance of Latin and Greek sounds to modern English pronunciation -- on both sides (cf. WP:NPOV). You might start with Fowler, for example. --Macrakis (talk) 11:55, 11 September 2017 (UTC)
Agreed. Each language has its own phonological system including prosody, and for a foreign word to assimilate to that system is exactly the definition of "borrowing". Furthermore, descriptors like "long" and "short" vowels don't apply in many varieties of English. It's irrelevant. Nardog (talk) 15:18, 11 September 2017 (UTC)
In giving the quantity I was following the practice of this article, which gives the quantity of the inflected plural ending in status etc only very shortly above, without connecting it to English pronunciation. One modern dictionary gives two possible pronunciations of Greek -ata plurals, and some at least of those consulting the article would wish to know the Greek quantity to guide their choice. Seadowns (talk) 00:41, 12 September 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── There are two issues here:

  • The editorial one, of where to include this information and how to present it.
  • The substantive one, of what effect Greek and Latin quantity have or should have on English pronunciation.

For the editorial question, as I said above, this issue is not specific to English plurals. It should be discussed either in the article on English pronunciation or in English words of Greek origin.

For the substantive question, Fowler, after pointing out that Greek/Latin quantity is a poor indicator of English vowel quality, does say "With regard to its secondary effect, as an influence in selecting the syllable in English words that shall bear the stress, classical quantity is not so negligible." and then recommends that "in Greek and Latin words adopted without modification", the stressed or long syllable in G/L be stressed in English. Interestingly, he says nothing about stress in the Latin plurals article.[1] So you might want to consult Fowler and other reliable sources and add something about pronunciation in the appropriate article. --Macrakis (talk) 08:49, 12 September 2017 (UTC)

  1. ^ H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, s.v. False quantity
I am afraid I don't quite get the point. What is the issue exactly that is not specific to English plurals? Sorry to be dim. Seadowns (talk) 13:09, 17 September 2017 (UTC)

Syllabus[edit]

Can the statement about the Latin plural of syllabus be confirmed with reference? If true, it would make a very odd word even odder. OED does not confirm this. Seadowns (talk) 13:37, 17 September 2017 (UTC)

I can't find a reliable source suggesting that syllabus was fourth declension. It would appear (from the OED etc.) that the word did not exist in classical Latin and resulted from a scribal error. I don't know if there is any record of a plural use in medieval Latin. I would suggest removing the comment about the plural being syllabūs. It might be appropriate to add a footnote that no classical Latin plural existed. --Boson (talk) 00:02, 14 October 2017 (UTC)

Latin Plurals in -ia and -a[edit]

What about words like memorabilia and Victoriana? They should be plural, but often seem to be treated as singular. Which are they?  Seadowns (talk) 10:44, 13 October 2017 (UTC)
They never seem to be used as if countable in English (e. g. <*seven memorabilia>), so are singular mass nouns—not unlike ' 'data' ' in its common usage.
If their usage is invariably so, I'm not sure whether they are worthy of a special mention in the article.
146.198.137.112 (talk) 03:58, 1 January 2018 (UTC)

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Possible correction to French[edit]

The article implies that agents provocateurs is the plural in French. Isn't it provocateuse? Could someone who can speak French clarify. If provocateurs is indeed the most common English usage despite not being the logical plural in either language, perhaps the discrepancy should be expounded upon in the article. 146.198.137.112 (talk) 04:05, 1 January 2018 (UTC)

Provocateuse would be the feminine singular. --Boson (talk) 10:45, 1 January 2018 (UTC)
Thanks a lot for the prompt clarification, and my apologies for my time-wasting error. My memory of school French is even vaguer than I, at first, imagined. Despite (or, some linguists might argue, because of) an interest in syntax, I'm woeful at actually learning foreign languages.
143.159.145.178 (talk) 14:36, 5 January 2018 (UTC)
(same anon as User:146.198.137.112)