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What Does Plural Mean? (Definition and Examples)

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.)
    (Note: The word dog is a singular noun, but dogs is a plural noun.)
  • He shouts. / They shout.
  • (He is a singular pronoun, and shouts is a singular verb.)
    (They is a plural pronoun, and shout is a plural verb.)
The terms plural and singular are values of the grammatical category of number.

Most Nouns Have Singular and Plural Forms

Most 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:
  • Tramps
  • Beers
  • Goggles
  • Models
Most of the time in English, a noun forms its plural by adding -s or -es to its singular version. However, not every noun forms its plural this way. For example:
  • Sheep
  • Men
  • Stadia
  • Octopi
Read more about forming the plurals of nouns.

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.)
Read more about subject-verb agreement.

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.)
Read more about demonstrative adjectives.

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.)
Read more about possessive adjectives.

Pronouns Can be Singular, Plural...or Both

In 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 PronounsPlural PronounsExample
Pronoun Type: Personal Pronouns
I/Me-I am happy.
YouYouYou are happy.
You are happy.
He/Him-He is happy.
She/Her-She is happy.
It-It is happy.
-We/UsWe are happy.
-They/ThemThey 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.
-OurselvesWe are looking at ourselves.
-YourselvesYou are looking at yourselves.
-ThemselvesThey are looking at themselves.
Pronoun Type: Interrogative Pronouns
Who/WhomWho/WhomWho is he?
Who are they?
WhoseWhoseWhose is it?
Whose are they?
WhatWhatWhat is it?
What are they?
WhichWhichWhich is it?
Which are they?
Pronoun Type: Demonstrative Pronouns
That-That is heavy.
This-This is heavy.
-ThoseThose are heavy.
-TheseThese are heavy.
Pronoun Type: Relative Pronouns
Who/WhomWho/WhomThe man who is looking at the car...
The men who are looking at the car...
ThatThatThe dog that is barking...
The dogs that are barking...
WhichWhichThe car which is broken...
The cars which are broken...
Pronoun Type: Indefinite Pronouns
AllAllAll is available.
All are available.
AnyAnyAny 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.
- FewFew are available.
- ManyMany are available.
Nobody-Nobody is available.
NoneNoneNone is available
None are available.
-SeveralSeveral are available.
SomeSomeSome is available.
Some are available.
Somebody-Somebody is available.
Someone-Someone is available.
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Note

Collective Nouns Can Be Singular or Plural

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.)
Collective nouns are fairly common. Three very common ones are team, group, and section. Try to keep your collective nouns as singular. However, if the focus is strongly on the individuals, have the confidence to go plural.

Read more about treating collective nouns as singular or plural.