Number - English Grammar
06-04-2018    2943 times


A number is a mathematical procedure, used for counting anything. The original examples of number are the natural or cardinal numbers, like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on. A

notational symbol that represents a number is known as a ‘numeral’. In English grammar, number refers to the grammatical contrast between one (singular) and more than one (plural) forms of nouns, pronouns, determiners, and verbs. By number we understand, whether it is one of something or more than one of that thing. When the thing named is one, we say that the noun has a singular number. Similarly, when the thing exceeds one, it is categorised as plural number.

In order to make a noun plural, it is usually necessary to add ‘s’ (cat / cats). However, there are many irregular nouns that need to add‘es’ (bus / buses).to make them plural. The rules for spelling plural nouns are, actually, based on the letters at the end of the word. We shall discuss about them, one by one.

If the singular noun ends with ‘s, ss, sh, ch, x’ or ‘z’, we are to add ‘es’ at the end to make it plural. Examples – bus / buses, actress / actresses / bush / bushes / arch / arches, blitz / blitzes.

Singular and Pural
Singular and Pural

If the singular noun ends with ‘f’ or ‘fe’, the ‘fis often changed to ‘ve’ before adding the ‘s’ to form the plural version. Examples – wife / wives, knife / knives. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For examples – roof / roofs, chief / chiefs.

If a singular noun ends in ‘y’ and the letter before the ‘y’ is a consonant, the ending should be changed to ‘ies’ to make the noun plural. As for example, baby / babies, city / cities, activity / activities.

However, if the singular noun ends in ‘y’ and the letter before the ‘y’ is a vowel, only a simple ‘s’ is to be added to make it plural. As for example, boy / boys.

If the singular noun ends in ‘o’, we are to add ‘es’ to make it plural, as in volcano / volcanoes / portico / porticoes. There are some exceptions to the rule as in, piano / pianos / photo / photos / halo / halos.

In some cases, the singular noun ending with ‘us’, becomes plural by simply adding ani ‘ at the end. Examples – cactus / cacti, focus / foci, bacillus / bacilli.

If the singular noun ends with ‘on’, the plural ends with ‘a’. Examples – phenomenon / phenomena, criterion / criteria.

Some nouns do not change, when pluralised. Examples, among others – deer, sheep, series, pants, scissors. Such nouns are called, plurale tantum and they have no singular forms.

There are some nouns, known as ‘Irregular Nouns’, which do not follow any specific rule or standard pattern to change their forms in the plural. In fact, some of the most common English nouns haveirregularplural forms—such as man / men, woman / women, child / children, antithesis / antitheses, analysis, analyses, axis / axes.

    Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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