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English plural

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Image:Rei Ayanami.jpg 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.

Note that phonetic transcriptions provided in this article are for General American.

Regular plurals

The plural morpheme in English is suffixed to the end of most nouns. The plural form is usually represented orthographically by adding -s to the singular form (see exceptions below). The phonetic form of the plural morpheme is [z] by default. When the preceding sound is a voiceless consonant, it is pronounced [s]. Examples:

Where a noun ends in a sibilant sound—[s], [ʃ], [ʧ], [z], [ʒ], or [ʤ]—the plural is formed by adding [ɪz] (also pronounced [əz]), which is spelled -es if the word does not already end with -e:

Morphophonetically, these rules are sufficient to describe most English plurals. However, there are several complications introduced in spelling.

The -oes rule: most nouns ending in o preceded by a consonant also form their plurals by adding -es (pronounced [z]):

The -ies rule: nouns ending in a y preceded by a consonant drop the y and add -ies (pronounced [iz]):

Note, however, that proper nouns (particularly those for people or places) ending in a y preceded by a consonant form their plurals regularly:

This does not apply to words that are merely capitalized common nouns:

Words ending in a y preceded by a vowel form their plurals regularly:

Almost-regular plurals

Many nouns of Italian or Spanish origin are exceptions to the -oes rule:

Many nouns ending in a voiceless fricative mutate that sound to a voiced fricative before adding the plural ending. In the case of [f] changing to [v] the mutation is indicated in the orthography as well:

Some retain the voiceless consonant:

Some can do either:

Note 1: For dwarf, the common form of the plural was dwarfs—as, for example, in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—until J. R. R. Tolkien popularized dwarves; he intended the changed spelling to differentiate the "dwarf" fantasy race in his novels from the cuter and simpler beings common in fairy tales, but his usage has since spread. Multiple astronomical dwarf stars and multiple nonmythological short human beings, however, remain dwarfs.

Note 2: For staff in the sense of "a body of employees", the plural is always staffs; otherwise both staffs and staves are acceptable, except in compounds; such as flagstaffs. The stave of a barrel or cask is a back-formation from staves, which is its plural. (See the Plural to singular by back-formation section below.)

Irregular plurals

There are many other less regular ways of forming plurals, usually stemming from older forms of English or from foreign borrowings.

Nouns with identical singular and plural

Some nouns spell their singular and plural exactly alike; these are regarded by some linguists as regular plurals. Many of these are the names of animals:

fish (and many individual fish names: cod, mackerel, trout, etc.)

The plural deers is listed in some dictionaries,[1] but is considered by many to be an error.

Fish does have a regular plural form, but it differs in meaning from the unmarked plural; fishes refers to several species or other taxonomic types, while fish (plural) is used to describe multiple individual animals: one would say "the order of fishes," but "five fish in an aquarium." The plural fishes is found in the King James Bible, in the parable of the loaves and fishes, for example, and is also sometimes used for rhetorical emphasis, as in phrases like sleep with the fishes.

Other nouns that have identical singular and plural forms include:

cannon (sometimes cannons)

Note 3: Referring to individual songs in the blues musical style: "play me a blues"; "he sang three blues and a calypso"
Note 4: Referring, in the plural, to animals in a herd: "fifty head of cattle"

Irregular Germanic plurals

The plural of a few Germanic nouns can also be formed from the singular by adding -n or -en, stemming from the obsolete weak declension:

The word box, referring to a computer, is semi-humorously pluralized boxen in the Leet dialect. Multiple Vax computers, likewise, are sometimes called Vaxen, but multiple Unix systems are usually Unices (see Irregular plurals of foreign origin below).

The plural is sometimes formed by simply changing the vowel sound of the singular, in a process called umlaut (these are sometimes called mutated plurals):

Mouse is sometimes pluralized mouses in discussions of the computer mouse; however, mice is just as common because of the physical similarity between the input device and the rodent, which is the origin of the term.

Irregular plurals from Latin and Greek

Because English includes words from so many ancestral languages, as well as many loanwords from Latin, Classical Greek and modern languages, there are many other forms of plurals. Such nouns (particularly ones from Latin) often retain their original plurals, at least for some time after they are introduced. In some cases both forms are still vying for attention: for example, for a librarian, the plural of appendix is appendices (following the original language); for physicians, however, the plural of appendix is appendixes. Likewise, a radio engineer works with antennas and an entomologist deals with antennae. The "correct" form is the one that sounds better in context, or that people in the field use.

Correctly formed Latin plurals are the most acceptable, and indeed are often required, in academic and scientific contexts. In common usage, plurals with -s are sometimes preferred.

  • Final a becomes -ae (also ), or just adds -s:
  • Final ex or ix becomes -ices (pronounced [ɪˌsiːz] or [əˌsiz]), or just adds -es:

Some people treat process as if it belonged to this class, pronouncing processes /ˈpɹɑsɪˌsiːz/ instead of standard /ˈpɹɑsɛsɪz/

  • Final is becomes es (pronounced [ˌiːz]:

Note that axes, the plural of axis, is pronounced differently from axes (/ˈæksɪz/), the plural of axe.

  • Final ies remains unchanged:
  • Final on becomes -a:
  • Final um becomes -a, or just adds -s:
  • Final us becomes -i (second declension) or -era or -ora (third declension), or just adds -es (especially in fourth declension, where it would otherwise be the same as the singular):

Note: See article on the plural of virus.

Colloquial usages based in a humorous fashion on the second declension include Elvii to refer to multiple Elvis impersonators and Loti, used by petrolheads to refer to Lotus automobiles in the plural.

  • Final as in one case of a noun of Greek origin changes to -antes:
  • Final ma in nouns of Greek origin add -ta:
  • Though some take -s more commonly:
  • Final -us in nouns of Latin origin properly change -us to -i. Modern users tend to add -es instead; many older users insist on the -i plural.[2]

Irregular plurals from other languages

  • Some nouns of French origin add -x:

Foreign terms may take native plural forms, especially when the user is addressing an audience familiar with the language. In such cases, the conventionally formed English plural may sound awkward or be confusing.

  • Nouns of Slavic origin add -a or -i according to native rules, or just -s:
  • Nouns of Hebrew origin add -im or -ot (generally m/f) according to native rules, or just -s:

Note that ot is pronounced os in the Ashkenazi dialect.

  • Many nouns of Japanese origin have no plural form and do not change:

However, other nouns such as kimonos, futons, and tsunamis are more often seen with a regular English plural.

  • In New Zealand English, nouns of Māori origin can either take an -s or have no separate plural form. Words more connected to Māori culture and used in that context tend to retain the same form, while names of flora and fauna may or may not take an -s, depending on context. Omission is regarded by many as more correct:

Note 5: When referring to the bird, kiwi may or may not take an -s; when used as an informal term for a New Zealander, it always takes an -s.
Note 6: Māori, when referring to a person of that ethnicity, does not usually take an -s. Many speakers avoid the use of Māori as a noun, and instead use it only as an adjective.

  • In Canada and Alaska, some words borrowed from Inuktitut retain traditional plurals (see also Plurals of names of peoples, below):
  • Nouns from languages that have donated few words to English, and that are spoken by relatively few English speakers, generally form plurals as if they were native English words:

Words better known in the plural

Some words of foreign origin are much better known in the plural; usage of the proper singular may be considered pedantic or actually incorrect by some speakers. In common usage, the proper plural is considered the singular form. In many cases, back-formation has produced a regularized plural.

Note 7: A single piece of data is sometimes referred to as a data point.

Some plural nouns are used as such—invariably being accompanied by a plural verb form—while their singular forms are rarely encountered:

Note 8: In medical terminology, a phalanx is any bone of the finger or toe. A military phalanx is pluralized phalanxes.

A related phenomenon is the confusion of a foreign plural for its singular form:

Magazine is a plural noun, from Arabic via French, but is always regarded as singular in English; the plural is magazines.

Plurals of numbers

English, like some other languages, treats large numerals as nouns (cf. "there were ten soldiers" and "there were a hundred soldiers"). Thus dozens is preferred to tens, while hundreds and thousands are also completely acceptable.

Plurals of numbers differ according to how they are used. The following rules apply to dozen, score, hundred, thousand, million, and similar terms:

  • When modified by a number, the plural is not inflected, that is, has no -s added. Hence one hundred, two hundred, etc. For vaguer large numbers, one may say several hundred or many hundreds.
  • When used alone, or followed by a prepositional phrase, the plural is inflected: dozens of complaints, scores of people. However, either complaints by the dozen or complaints by the dozens is acceptable (although differing in meaning).
  • The preposition of is used when speaking of nonspecific items identified by pronouns: two hundred of these, three dozen of those. The of is not used for a number of specific items: three hundred oriental rugs. However, if the pronoun is included with the specific item, the of is used: five million of those dollar bills.

Plurals and units of measure

Words that are being used as a unit of measure are kept in the singular when the measure it is a part of is used as an adjective. Thus for example a "twenty-dollar bill" is a bill worth "twenty dollars", a "fifteen-car wreck" is a wreck involving "fifteen cars", and a "ten-foot pole" is a pole that is "ten feet" in length except when used idiomatically.

Defective nouns

Some nouns have no singular form. Such a noun is called a plurale tantum (see also Words better known in the plural above):

billiards,9 clothes, measles, thanks, vittles

Note 9: Referring to the table game, not the number 1015 in the long scale system of numeric names, which can be singular billiard.

Some of these do have singular adjective forms, such as billiard ball. In addition, some are treated as singular in construction, e.g., "billiards is a game played on a table with multiple balls and a cue stick."

A particular set of nouns, describing things having two parts, comprises the major group of pluralia tantum in modern English:

pants, scissors, shorts, trousers

Note that these words are interchangeable with a pair of scissors, a pair of trousers, and so forth. In the U.S. fashion industry it is common to refer to a single pair of pants as a pant—though this is a back-formation, the English word (deriving from the French pantalon) was originally singular. In the same field, one half of a pair of scissors separated from the other half is, rather illogically, referred to as a half-scissor. Tweezers used to be part of this group, but tweezer has come into common usage since the second half of the twentieth century.

Mass nouns (or uncountable nouns) do not represent distinct objects, so the singular and plural semantics do not apply in the same way. Some examples:

  • Abstract nouns
goodness, idleness, honesty, deceit, freshness, bitterness, information, obscurity, wisdom, cunning
  • Arts and sciences
chemistry, geometry, surgery, mechanics, optics, blues,10 jazz, rock and roll, impressionism, surrealism
  • Chemical elements and other physical entities:
antimony, gold, oxygen, equipment, furniture, gear, species, air, water, sand

Note 10: Referring to the musical style as a whole.

Some mass nouns can be pluralized, but the meaning thereof may change slightly. For example, when I have two pieces of sand, I do not have two sands; I have sand. There is more sand in your pile, not more sands. But there could be many "sands of Africa"—either many distinct stretches of sand, or distinct types of sand of interest to geologists or builders, or simply the allusive sands of Africa.

It is rare to pluralize furniture in this way. Nor would information be so treated, except in the case of criminal informations, which are prosecutor's briefs similar to indictments.

There is only one class of atoms called oxygen, but there are several isotopes of oxygen, which might be referred to as different oxygens. In casual speech, oxygen might be used as shorthand for "oxygen atoms", but in this case it is not a mass noun, so it is entirely sensible to refer to multiple oxygens in the same molecule.

One would interpret Bob's wisdoms as various pieces of Bob's wisdom (that is, don't run with scissors, defer to those with greater knowledge), deceits as a series of instances of deceitful behavior (lied on income tax, dated my wife), and the different idlenesses of the worker as plural distinct manifestations of the mass concept of idleness (or as different types of idleness, "bone lazy" versus "no work to do").

Specie and species make a fascinating case. Both words come from a Latin word meaning "kind", but they do not form a singular-plural pair; they are separate nouns. Coins, such as nickels, euros (see Linguistic issues concerning the euro), and cents are specie, but there is no plural. The idea is "payment in kind". And species, the "kinds of living things", is the same in singular and plural.

Plurals of compound nouns

The majority of English compound nouns have one basic term, or head, with which they end, and are pluralized in typical fashion:

A compound that has one head, with which it begins, usually pluralizes its head:


It is common in informal speech to instead pluralize the last word in the manner typical of most English nouns, but in edited prose, the forms given above are preferred.

If a compound can be thought to have two heads, both of them tend to be pluralized when the first head has an irregular plural form:

Two-headed compounds in which the first head has a standard plural form, however, tend to pluralize only the final head:

In military usage, the term general, as part of an officer's title, is etymologically an adjective, but it has been adopted as a noun and thus a head, so compound titles employing it are pluralized at the end:

For compounds of three or more words that have a head (or a term functioning as a head) with an irregular plural form, only that term is pluralized:

For many other compounds of three or more words with a head at the front—especially in cases where the compound is ad hoc and/or the head is metaphorical—it is generally regarded as acceptable to pluralize either the first major term or the last (if open when singular, such compounds tend to take hyphens when plural in the latter case):

With a few extended compounds, both terms may be pluralized—again, with an alternative (which may be more prevalent, e.g., heads of state):

With extended compounds constructed around o', only the last term is pluralized (or left unchanged if it is already plural):

Compounds from the French

Many English compounds have been borrowed directly from the French, and these generally follow a somewhat different set of rules. French-loaned compounds with a head at the beginning tend to pluralize both words, according to French practice:

For compounds adopted directly from the French where the head comes at the end, it is generally regarded as acceptable either to pluralize both words or only the last:

French-loaned compounds longer than two words tend to follow the rules of the original language, which usually involves pluralizing only the head at the beginning:


A distinctive case is the compound film noir. For this French-loaned artistic term, English-language texts variously use as the plural films noirs, films noir, and, most prevalently, film noirs. The 11th edition of the standard Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (2006) lists film noirs as the preferred style. Three primary bases may be identified for this:

  1. Unlike other compounds borrowed directly from the French, film noir is used to refer primarily to English-language cultural artifacts; a typically English-style plural is thus unusually appropriate.
  2. Again, unlike other foreign-loaned compounds, film noir refers specifically to the products of popular culture; consequently, popular usage holds more orthographical authority than is usual.
  3. English has adopted noir as a stand-alone noun in artistic contexts, leading it to serve as the lone head in a variety of compounds (e.g., psycho-noir, sci-fi noir).

See also the headless nouns section below.

Plurals (and singulars) of headless nouns

In The Language Instinct, linguist Steven Pinker discusses what he calls "headless words," typically bahuvrihi compounds, like lowlife and Red Sox, in which life and sox are not heads semantically; that is, a lowlife is not a type of life, nor are Red Sox a group of similarly colored socks. When the common form of such a word is singular, it is treated as if it has a regular plural, even if the final constituent of the word is usually pluralized in a nonregular fashion. Thus, more than one lowlife are lowlifes, not "lowlives." A related process can be observed with the compound maple leaf, pluralized in its common-noun form as maple leaves; when it is adopted as the name of an ice-hockey team, its plural becomes Maple Leafs. Other examples include:

An exception is Blackfoot, of which the plural can be Blackfeet, though that form of the name is officially rejected by the Blackfoot First Nations of Canada. The computer mouse is sometimes considered headless and pluralized as mouses, but also often as mice; in contrast to the compound headless words just discussed, there is a considerably stronger metaphorical relationship in this case, with many computer pointing devices resembling rodents with tails.

In other cases, the common form of a headless word is a nonregular plural; when such a word lacks a terminal s, it is treated as defective, thus making the singular version of the word identical: an individual member of the Boston baseball team is a Red Sox, just as all twenty-five are; one Chicago White Sox is a White Sox.

A universal feature of language is that frequently used words tend to have exceptional forms.[citation needed] Examples abound in English, e.g., have is used far more frequently and pronounced differently than other words ending in -ave. Common plurals may therefore take exceptional forms, while less frequently used plurals will take regular forms. That could explain why "mouse" is "mouses" instead of "mice" when referring to computer hardware.

Related collective nouns

Sports team names like those discussed above—as well as more grammatically ordinary names such as Reds, Knicks, and Canadiens, and straightforward compound names such as Blue Jays and Devil Rays—comprise a particular set of collective nouns. Closely related to the class of essentially plural headless nouns typified by Red Sox are the growing number of orthographically singular sports team names that may be classified as examples of a special type of collective noun—one that (a) has identical terms for both the collective and an individual thereof (as with the essentially plural headless noun) but (b) is not used as a counting noun beyond the singular. Two examples include the name of the Miami NBA team—Heat—and the name of the Colorado NHL team—Avalanche. While heat is a mass noun, whereas avalanche is a normal counting noun, in the context of a team name, both words operate as this special type of collective noun. Just as with the Sox, any one of the twelve current members of Miami's pro basketball squad is a Heat; similarly, any individual member of the Colorado Avalanche is an Avalanche. However, where one may say, for instance, that "two Red Sox struck out" or "four White Sox homered," the equivalent term is invariably used as an adjective when referring to multiple players of one of the teams named in this increasingly popular way: "two Heat players fought" or "four Avalanche players scored" (Avalanche followers have a little more flexibility, with "Avs" as the team's unofficial, but widely used nickname). Other examples include:

Note that in not every case above is it certain that the name is ever used in its noun form to refer to anything but the collective—i.e., not even to an individual player; in other cases, it is possible that the name is sometimes used in its noun form (with or without a terminal s appended) to refer to multiple players, short of the whole collective.

An exceptional case is that of the St. Louis Blues hockey team. The club is named after the song "St. Louis Blues," which makes the team name Blues an irregularly pluralized word to begin with—one whose plural is identical to its singular. By this reckoning, then, an individual team member would also be a "Blues." However, because the name is spelled like a regular plural, its use as a collective noun leads to a process of back-formation, with the result that a single player on the team is known as a Blue. The club name's distinctive orthographical nature further allows it to be used freely as a counting noun, so that one may speak of, for instance, "two Blues in the penalty box."

Pinker discusses a case that could be construed as opposite, that of the Florida Marlins baseball team. Describing how the issue was raised by talk show host David Letterman, Pinker asks, Why is the name Marlins "given that those fish are referred to in the plural as marlin?" An analogous question could be asked about the Maple Leafs. Pinker's answer comes down to this: "A name is not the same thing as a noun."[3] Consequently, names (and nouns that derive from names) based on nouns with irregular plurals do not acquire them—though, as we see with Red Sox, new irregularities may arise.

Nouns with multiple plurals

Some nouns have two plurals, one used to refer to a number of things considered individually, the other to refer to a number of things collectively. In some cases, one of the two is nowadays archaic or dialectal.

Note 11: Childer has all but disappeared, but can still be seen in Childermas (Innocents' Day).

Note 12: Clothes refers collectively to all of a household's washable cloth articles.

Note 13: Kine is still used in rural English dialects.

Note 14: Dies is used as the plural for die in the sense of a mould; dice as the plural (and increasingly as the singular) in the sense of a small random number generator. Dice is also the accepted plural form of die in the semiconductor industry.

Note 15: Fish: the plural for one species of fish, or caught fish, is fish, but for live fish of many species, or in poetic usage, fishes is used.

Note 16: For multiple plants, iris is used, but irises is used for multiple blossoms.

Note 17: If you have several (British) one-penny pieces you have several pennies. Pence is used for an amount of money, which can be made up of a number of coins of different denominations: one penny and one five-penny piece are together worth six pence. Penny and pennies also refer to one or more U.S. one-cent pieces, though in American usage, a nickel is worth five cents, not five pence.

Note 18: The word people is usually treated as the suppletive plural of person (one person, many people). However, in legal and other formal contexts, the plural of person is persons; furthermore, people can also be a singular noun with its own plural (for example, "We are many persons, from many peoples").

Plurals of symbols and initialisms

Individual letters and abbreviations whose plural would be ambiguous if only an -s were added are pluralized by adding -'s.

mind your p's and q's
A.A.'s and B.A.'s
the note had three PS's

Opinion is divided on whether to extend this use of the apostrophe to related but nonambiguous cases, such as the plurals of numerals (e.g., 1990's vs. 1990s) and words used as terms (e.g., "his writing uses a lot of but's" vs. "his writing uses a lot of buts"). Some writers favor the use of the apostrophe as consistent with its application in ambiguous cases; others say it confuses the plural with the possessive -'s and should be avoided whenever possible in pluralization, a view with which The Chicago Manual of Style concurs.

Acronyms are initialisms used as if they are words. Clearly, it is not desirable to pluralize the initialism laser as laser's. Thus the most consistent approach for pluralizing acronyms is to simply add a lowercase -s as a suffix. This works well even for acronyms ending with an s, as with CASs (pronounced "kazzes"), while still making it possible to use the possessive form (-'s) for acronyms without confusion. The traditional style of pluralizing single letters with -'s was naturally extended to acronyms when they were commonly written with periods. This form is still preferred by some people for all initialisms and thus -'s as a suffix is often seen in informal usage.

Plural to singular by back-formation

Some words have started out with unusually formed singulars and plurals, but more "normal" singular-plural pairs have resulted by back-formation. For an example from the vegetable world, pease was the singular and peasen the plural, but over the centuries, first pease became the plural and pea the singular, and finally the plural was altered to peas. Similarly, termites and primates were the three-syllable plurals of termes and primas, respectively, but these singulars were lost, the plurals given two syllables, and now we have termite and termites and primate and primates. Syringe is a back-formation from syringes, itself the plural of syrinx, a musical instrument. Cherry is from Norman French cherise. Finally, phases was once the plural of phasis, but the singular is now phase.

Kudos is a singular Greek word meaning praise, but the same process may be happening to it. At present, kudo is an error, however. The name of the Greek sandwich style gyros is, increasingly, undergoing the same transformation. Gyros is from the Greek for "turning," but it looks like an English plural, and it is not uncommon to hear or see a reference to a gyro.

The singular form of Spanish tamales (IPA: [ta ˈmal es]) is tamal ([ta ˈmal]). The anglicized version of tamales is pronounced [tə ˈmɑl iz] and the back-formed singular is tamale [(tə ˈmɑl i)].

Plurals of names of peoples

There are several different rules for this.

In discussing peoples whose demonym takes -man or -woman, there are three options: pluralize to -men or -women if referring to individuals, and use the root alone if referring to the whole nation, or add people.

One can say "a Scots(wo)man" or "a Scot", "Scots(wo)men", "Scottish people", or "Scots," and "the Scottish" or "the Scots". (Scotch is considered old fashioned.)

Several peoples have names that are simple nouns and can be pluralized by the addition of either -s or -ish (the later case often calls for the elimination of terminal letters so the pluralizing suffix can be connected directly with the last consonant of the root):

Names of peoples that end in -ese take no plural:

Other names of peoples that have no plural form include Swiss and Québécois.

Most names for Native Americans are not pluralized:


Some exceptions include Algonquins, Aztecs, Chippewas, Crees, Hurons, Mohawks, and Oneidas. Note also the following words borrowed from Inuktitut:

Names of most other peoples of the world are pluralized using the normal English rules.

Discretionary plurals

Main article: English collective nouns

A number of words like army, company, crowd, fleet, government, majority, mess, number, pack, and party may refer either to a single entity or the members of the set that compose it. Thus, as H. W. Fowler describes, in British English they are "treated as singular or plural at discretion"; Fowler notes noted that occasionally a "delicate distinction" is made possible by discretionary plurals: "The Cabinet is divided is better, because in the order of thought a whole must precede division; and The Cabinet are agreed is better, because it takes two or more to agree."[4] Also in British English, names of towns and countries take plural verbs when they refer to sports teams but singular verbs when they refer to the actual place: England are playing Germany tonight refers to a football game, but England is the most populous country of the United Kingdom refers to the country. In North American English, such words are invariably treated as singular.

Snob plurals

Another type of irregular plural occurs in the register of the English upper classes in the context of field sports, where the singular form is used in place of the plural, as in "a herd of antelope", "two lion" or "five pheasant". Eric Partridge refers to these as "snob plurals" and conjectures that they may have developed by analogy with the common English irregular plural animal words "deer", "sheep" and "trout".[5]

The term snob plurals can be applied more generally to uses of forms of pluralization characterized, first, by their departure from the standard English rule of adding -(e)s, and, second, by the likelihood they are being so used to enhance the status of the speaker. While speaking to a group of monolingual anglophone friends, someone talking about a recent trip to Russia who says, "We visited five oblasti," is most likely using a snob plural. Latinate plurals for nouns of Greek origin mentioned earlier in this article are often employed as snob plurals—e.g., cacti or hippopotami—although for substantial numbers of speakers they are simply the unmarked usages. The use of nonstandard plurals can be one convenient way to communicate the claim that the speaker has a certain level of knowledge associated with sophistication and, more generally, prestige. Because the pragmatics of this usage are heavily dependent on context, it's impossible to say that a particular use of pluarization is, or is not, a snob plural in the absence of situational information. Someone speaking at an academic conference to fellow Slavicists might use oblasti without the expectation of enhanced social status and, therefore, not be using a snob plural (on the other hand, the speaker might fear a loss of social status for using "oblasts"). Articles in encyclopedias are, on the whole, written for the general reader and avoid forms of plural that would likely confuse those not already familiar with the topic.


  1. ^ E.g. Collins English Dictionary, 6th ed. (Glasgow: HarperCollins, 2003).
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 2002).
  3. ^ Pinker, Stephen, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (New York: Perennial, 2000 [1994]), 139.
  4. ^ Fowler, H. W., A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2nd ed., revised by Sir Ernest Gowers (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965), 403.
  5. ^ Partridge, Eric, Usage and Abusage: A Guide to Good English, revised by Janet Whitcut (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1997), pp. 238–39.

See also

  • English collective nouns
  • English verbs
  • English personal pronouns
  • Count noun
  • Mass noun
  • Singular they

External link

  • Rules for Irregular Plural Formation of Nouns summary by Pat Byrd, Department of Applied Linguistics & ESL, Georgia State University
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