Posted by: Jack Henry | September 8, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Plural Nouns, Part 2

I’m back with more about plural nouns. Thanks for waiting for me.

Yesterday I shared information about regular and irregular plural nouns. Today, I want to discuss unchanging nouns, because someone recently asked me about them. A few examples were listed in the previous table (sheep, deer, fish). Just as the name implies, these nouns don’t change from singular to plural.

I did a little research and found that many of these unchanging nouns are names of animals and fish; however, some additional examples of unchanging nouns are aircraft and offspring. OK, now we have a partial list of unchanging nouns, but we still don’t have an answer to the question “Why are some nouns the same in the singular and plural form?”

Wikipedia says, “As a general rule, game and other animals are often referred to in the singular for the plural in a sporting context…whereas in another context such as zoology or tourism the regular plural would be used.”

I’m skeptical about that last comment, careful English speakers don’t say sheeps or mooses, and even in a wildlife/zoology context, I have not heard deers or fishes. Maybe I’ll research that further.

The other answer has to do with etymology. When we borrow plural words from other languages, we often obey the spelling rules of the language of origin. That creates a lot of irregular and some unchanging nouns.

The best thing to do is to memorize both the irregular plural and the unchanging nouns. And when in doubt, consult a dictionary.

If you have five minutes to watch a clip of Brian Regan’s funny (and clean) standup routine about plural nouns, the “i before e” rule, and other school-related humor, click this link. Thanks to my friend, Mark W. for providing the memory and the link.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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