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UNUSUAL PLURALS

In most cases to make a word plural (to mean more than one in number) you just have to add an "s" or "es", there are, however, some exceptions.  Here are a few of the most familiar, if you have other favourites please send them in to june@hintsandthings.co.uk

Some words are the same in both singular and plural forms and some have no singular form,  these are shown in green.

SINGULAR PLURAL

attorney general

attorneys general

Heidi Kroening

bacterium
bacteria

bison

bison

Bob Bartels

cactus

cacti

Heather

child

children

Katie Barlow & daughter

corps

corps

Margarita Minster

cow

kine 

(old fashioned term)

Gary Engel

cod

cod

Margarita Minster

criterion
criteria

cul-de-sac

  culs-de-sac

Louis Hegedus

datum
data

deer

deer

Bob Bartels

diagnosis

diagnoses

die
dice

elf

elves

Bob Bartels

fish

fish

(or fishes)

Margarita Minster

Focus

Foci

Charles Rowan

foot

feet

Gigi Velazquez 

formula

formulae

Katie Barlow & daughter

fowl

fowl 

(or fowls)

Margarita Minster

genius

geniuses 

Richard Hill

or genii

goose

geese

Katie Barlow & daughter

graffito
graffiti

halibut

halibut

Margarita Minster

hippopotamus

hippopotami

Heather

More commonly used hippopotamuses see

louse
lice

man

men

Katie Barlow & daughter

man-of-war

men of war

Heidi Kroening

means

means

Margarita Minster

Medium

Media

Charles Rowan

mongoose

mongooses

moose

moose

Margarita Minster

mouse
mice
medium
media

offspring

offspring

Margarita Minster

octopus

octopuses ***

Richard Hill

perch

perch

(or perches)

Margarita Minster

person

people

Katie Barlow & daughter

phenomenon
phenomena

pike

pike 

(when referring to fish)

Margarita Minster

pliers

pliers

Kevin Lee

polyhedron

polyhedra

Heidi Kroening

polyhedrons*

* alternative form

quantum

quanta

radius

radii

Jeremy Symons

salmon

salmon

 (or salmons)

Margarita Minster

scissors

scissors

Margarita Minster

series

series

Margarita Minster

sheep

sheep

Margarita Minster

species

species

Margarita Minster

stratum
strata

tongs

tongs

Kevin Lee

tooth

teeth

Katie Barlow & daughter

trout

trout

(or trouts)

Margarita Minster

tuna

tuna

(or tunas)

Margarita Minster

tweezers

tweezers

Kevin Lee

woman

women*

Katie Barlow & daughter

 

* Mr. Tim Lynch also points out this is the only English plural where the first syllable sounds different in addition to the changed ending.

I have recently been asked if the word "music" can be used in the plural form as "musics" - my immediate response was "no", but having done some research it would appear this term is now widely used.  If anyone can throw any light on this particular subject I would be delighted to hear from you (june@hintsandthings.com)

Bree Guerra comments as follows:-

Just to let you know, in an academic (musicological) setting, the plural word "musics" works the same way as the plural form "peoples"-- it refers to a group of distinct musical practices or styles.

Mel Martin makes the following observation:-

"Music" is a collective… you wouldn’t use a number with it.
 

Another query I have had is regarding the plural form of the word "ginseng" - here again I found confusion.  Ginseng appears to be a species of plant and also a term given to the root of the plant.  Presumably when referring to several roots it would be termed "ginsengs" - unless anyone knows differently!

Help from English graduates etc. would be more than welcome.


Stephen Q. Muth writes - Although one might argue they are always plural, or qualified by another noun (pair of vs. pairs of) to make the distinction, as a stand-alone word, it can be referent to singular or plural things. E.g., guy across the room says "pass me those pants on the table" -- without actually being there, it is not clear if there's one or two (or more) pairs on the table.

Or this example: (man comes into room wearing outlandish pair of sequined Elvis-style trousers, turns to you, immediately brightens and says "Nice pants, eh?"

It's pretty obvious that he's talking about one pair of pants UNLESS you happened to be in a room with piles of outlandish kinds of pants on top of tables all over the place. Now, we're in a quandary... is he merely making a remark about the absurdity of being in a roomful of outlandish trousers? Or perhaps making a point about how much better the one pair he's wearing is than the ones in the rest of the room? Or simply remarking on the pair he's got on?

Ah... I just thought of another one.

Trousers and trousers


Now for something a bit different;  I received the following interesting information from Aaron B Lingwood, a student of Japanese, which I thought would be of interest to others -

I am not a student of English but a student of Japanese.

I have seen the plural of Ninja written the following ways:

Ninja
Ninjas
Ninjii
Ninji
Ninjaed

I believe the correct plural of Ninja is Shinobi.

Plurals don't exist in the Japanese language.

In Ancient Japanese, some word forms were created to convey Singularity.

Ninja was derived as the singular of Shinobi in the following way:

In Ancient Japanese, characters have 2 strict readings: the 'on' and the 'kun' readings.

'Kun' reading are those derived from the Chinese pronunciation of the character.

The character for Shinobi () was pronounced as its' 'kun' reading.

The 'on' reading for this character is NIN with JA being derived from SHA ()

SHA being the 'on' character for thing or item.

As no ownership is implied, the term NINJA conveys a single shinobi.


Wow, and they say English is difficult to learn!

 

 

 

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