In linguistics, noun phrases have grammatical number. Plural is one kind of grammatical number. In English, plural noun phrases are counted as more or less than one (e.g., -32 degrees, no bananas, 0.5 liters, 1.2 grams, two times, three fish, 20 mothers). In contrast, a singular noun phrase usually refers to something that you would count as one only (e.g., one time, a glass, the sun, my mother, Jennifer). Noun phrases that cannot be counted are also singular in English (e.g., water, the meat, some space, etc.).

In many languages, a suffix (word ending) is added to a word to show that the word is plural. In English, the normal plural suffix is -s (e.g., cat is singular, and cats is plural).

Plurals in English

There are a number of exceptions:[1][2]

It is fair to say that most native English speakers do make mistakes in this area: it is one of the more troublesome aspects of the English language.

Other languages

All European languages have plural forms. The suffix that is used in each one of these other languages is different from the suffix that is applied to English nouns.

In other languages, such as Chinese, Korean and Japanese, there is usually no plural ending.


  1. Crystal, David 1995. The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language. Cambridge University Press, p200/1. ISBN 0-521-401-79-8
  2. Fowler H.W.1965. A dictionary of modern English usage. 2nd ed, revised by Sir Ernest Gowers. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p456.

Categories: Grammar

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