Plural is a grammatical number, typically referring to more than one of the referent in the real world.

In the English language, singular and plural are the only grammatical numbers.

In English, nouns, pronouns, and demonstratives inflect for plurality. (See English plural.) In many other languages, for example German and Romance languages, articles and adjectives also inflect for plurality. For example, in the English sentence "the brown cats run," only the noun and verb are inflected; but in the French sentence "les chats bruns courent," every word (article, noun, adjective, and verb) is inflected.

In some languages including Sanskrit, Icelandic, Biblical Hebrew and Inuktitut there is also a dual number (two objects). Some other grammatical numbers present in various languages include nullar (no objects), trial (three objects) and paucal (a few objects). In languages with dual, trial, or paucal numbers, plural refers to numbers higher than those (i.e. more than two, more than three, or many.)

Some languages distinguish between a plural and a greater plural. A greater plural refers to an abnormally large number for what we are discussing. It should also be noted that the distinction between the paucal and the plural and the greater plural is often relative to the type of object under discussion. For example, for oranges a few might mean less than ten, whereas for the population of a country a few might mean a few hundred thousand.

The Austronesian language Sursurunga has singular, dual, paucal, greater paucal, and plural. Lihir, another Austronesian language, has singular, dual, trial, paucal, and plural. These are probably languages with the most complex number. Reports on existence of quadral (four) are considered false.

However, numbers besides singular, plural, and to a lesser extent dual, are extremely rare. Furthermore, languages with noun classifiers such as Chinese and Japanese lack any significant grammatical number at all. They are likely to have plural personal pronouns though.

Languages having only a singular and plural form, like Romance or Germanic European languages, may still differ in their treatment of zero. For example, in English, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, the plural form is used for zero or more than one, and the singular for one thing only. By contrast, in French and Brazilian Portuguese, the singular form is used for zero. (Some languages, e.g. Latvian, have one a special form, the nullar, for zero, as well as the singular and plural, as discussed above.)

Also, an interesting difference from Romance/Germanic languages is found in some Slavic and Baltic languages. Here, the final digits of the number determine its form. For example, Polish has singular and plural, and a special form for numbers where the last digit is 2,3 or 4, and the second last digit is not 1. Slovenian has one form for numbers congruent to 1 modulo 100, another for numbers congruent to 2 modulo 100, another for numbers congruent to either 3 or 4 modulo 100, and another form for all other numbers. In Croatian (in additon to Polish 2,3,4) exists a plural for counting a plural for not-counting, to explain this - there are two ways to say leaves "lišće"(1) and "listovi"(2). (1) is used when saying ie. "Leaves are falling from the trees". (s) is used when saying ie. "Those are some beautiful leaves". The plural (1) is more commonly used, and in general the two plurals are used with nature related objects.

(Reference: Some of the information above, concerning the treatment of zero and the plurality based on the final digits, was derived from the discussion of plurality in section 10.2.5 in the GNU gettext manual, available here (


Corbett, Greville. (2000) Number. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. Cambridge University Press.

External links

cs:množné číslo de:Plural es:Plural eo:Pluralo nl:Meervoud (taal) simple:Plural sl:množina sv:Pluralis


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