What Does Plural Mean? (Definition and Examples)The word plural denotes a quantity greater than one. Plural contrasts with singular, which denotes only one. For example:
- One dog / two dogs (The word dog is singular, but dogs is plural.)
- He shouts. / They shout. (He is a singular pronoun, and shouts is a singular verb.)
(Note: The word dog is a singular noun, but dogs is a plural noun.)
(They is a plural pronoun, and shout is a plural verb.)
Most Nouns Have Singular and Plural FormsMost nouns have singular and plural forms. A noun with a singular and plural form (e.g., dog/dogs, man/men) is called a countable noun. A countable noun contrasts with a non-countable noun, which does not have a plural form (e.g., music, bravery).
Below are some countable nouns which are plural in number:
Agreement in Number (Singular or Plural)In English, lots of constructions must agree in number. For example:
A plural subject must have a plural verb, and a singular subject must have a singular verb.
- They are happy. (They is a plural subject, and are is a plural verb.)
- The mice are eating our sandwiches. (The mice is a plural subject, and are eating is a plural verb.)
- The mouse chews the cable. (The mouse is a singular subject, and chews is a singular verb.)
A demonstrative adjective (these, those, this, and that) must agree in number with the noun it modifies.
- These reactions are unexpected. (These is a plural adjective, and reactions is a plural noun.)
- This town is boring. (This is a singular adjective, and town is a singular noun.)
A possessive adjective (my, your, his, her, its, our, and their) must agree in number and gender with the noun it represents.
- Peter shook his head. (The possessive adjective his probably refers to Peter, but it could feasible refer to another male individual.)
- Peter shook their hands. (The possessive adjective their refers to an unnamed group of people.)
Pronouns Can be Singular, Plural...or BothIn English, some pronouns are always plural (e.g., we, they, these), and some are always singular (e.g., I, he, this). Some pronouns can be singular or plural. Here is a list of the most common pronouns showing whether each is singular, plural or both.
|Singular Pronouns||Plural Pronouns||Example|
|Pronoun Type: Personal Pronouns|
|I/Me||-||I am happy.|
|You||You||You are happy.|
You are happy.
|He/Him||-||He is happy.|
|She/Her||-||She is happy.|
|It||-||It is happy.|
|-||We/Us||We are happy.|
|-||They/Them||They are happy.|
|Pronoun Type: Intensive Pronouns and Reflexive Pronouns|
|Myself||-||I am looking at myself.|
|Yourself||-||You are looking at yourself.|
|Himself||-||He is looking at himself.|
|Herself||-||She is looking at herself.|
|Itself||-||It is looking at itself.|
|-||Ourselves||We are looking at ourselves.|
|-||Yourselves||You are looking at yourselves.|
|-||Themselves||They are looking at themselves.|
|Pronoun Type: Interrogative Pronouns|
|Who/Whom||Who/Whom||Who is he?|
Who are they?
|Whose||Whose||Whose is it?|
Whose are they?
|What||What||What is it?|
What are they?
|Which||Which||Which is it?|
Which are they?
|Pronoun Type: Demonstrative Pronouns|
|That||-||That is heavy.|
|This||-||This is heavy.|
|-||Those||Those are heavy.|
|-||These||These are heavy.|
|Pronoun Type: Relative Pronouns|
|Who/Whom||Who/Whom||The man who is looking at the car...|
The men who are looking at the car...
|That||That||The dog that is barking...|
The dogs that are barking...
|Which||Which||The car which is broken...|
The cars which are broken...
|Pronoun Type: Indefinite Pronouns|
|All||All||All is available.|
All are available.
|Any||Any||Any is available.|
Any are available.
|Anyone||-||Anyone is available.|
|Anything||-||Anything is available.|
|Each||-||Each is available.|
|Everybody||-||Everybody is available.|
|Everyone||-||Everyone is available.|
|Everything||-||Everything is available.|
|-||Few||Few are available.|
|-||Many||Many are available.|
|Nobody||-||Nobody is available.|
|None||None||None is available|
None are available.
|-||Several||Several are available.|
|Some||Some||Some is available.|
Some are available.
|Somebody||-||Somebody is available.|
|Someone||-||Someone is available.|
Take a longer test on plurals.
Nouns that represent groups (called collective nouns) can be treated as singular or plural, depending on the sense of the sentence. For example:
- The shoal was moving north. (The collective noun shoal is treated as singular because it is considered as one entity.)
- The shoal were darting in all directions. (Here, shoal is treated as plural because the focus is on the individuals.)
Read more about treating collective nouns as singular or plural.