Number: Definition, Types, and Example

By | May 12, 2019

What is a Number in English Grammar? The number is a grammatical category of pronouns, nouns, adjectives, and verb agreement for expressing count distinctions.

In simpler terms, it’s meant to show whether the object of discussion is one or more than one. Where the object is one, the number is referred to as singular and where it’s more than one it becomes plural.

Types of Number:

There are basically two types of Number, and that is singular and plural.

While singular refers to a single count of a pronoun or noun, plural refers to a count of more than one pronoun or noun.

Examples include:  

  • Kid – kids.  
  • Wife – Wives.  
  • Chair – Chairs.  
  • Father – Fathers.  
  • Child – Children.

The first column of words represents a singular number, while the second column represents a plural number.

Types of Number
Types of Number

Changing Number from Singular to Plural

When describing more than one pronoun or noun, it’s essential that you change it from the singular number form to a plural number form to be grammatically correct. While the process can be as simple as adding an “s” at the end of the word, there’re complex rules that govern the entire process and which actually determine how you go about it.

Personal pronouns have their own inflection for a number that determines whether they’re singular or plural. Most commonly, only the personal pronouns in the first and third person have a plural form. For the second person pronoun, only the reflexive pronoun yourself has a plural form, yourselves.

Examples in a sentence:

  • I have a meeting today (singular).
  • We have a meeting today(plural).

In this sentence, the pronoun I become we in the plural.

  • She refuses to come.
  • They refuse to come.

In this sentence, the pronoun she becomes they in the plural.

For nouns, the rules are as follows:

Rule 1: Adding an “s” at the end of the noun or pronoun.  

This is the simplest of the rules, where you simply add an “s” at the end of the word and that’s it.

Examples include:  

  • Pencil becomes pencils in the plural.  
  • Table becomes tables in the plural.  
  • Mobile becomes mobiles in the plural.  
  • Goggle becomes googles in the plural.  
  • Cup becomes cups in the plural.  

Rule 2: Where the pronoun or noun ends with an s, sh, ch, x or z, you add an “es” to make it plural.  

Examples include:  

  • The bus becomes buses in the plural.  
  • The dish becomes dishes in the plural.  
  • Ex becomes exes in the plural.  
  • Fax becomes faxes in the plural.  
  • The branch becomes branches in the plural.  

Rule 3: Where the noun ends with a “ch”, but the “ch” is pronounced as a “k” you simply add an “s” instead of an “es”.  

Examples Includes:  

  • A monarch becomes monarchs in the plural.  
  • A patriarch becomes patriarchs in the plural.  
  • A stomach becomes stomachs in the plural. 

Rule 4: Where the noun ends with a “y” that’s preceded by a consonant, you replace the “y” with an “i” before adding an “es”.  

Examples include:  

  • Hobby becomes hobbies in the plural.  
  • The story becomes stories in the plural.  
  • Fly becomes flies in the plural   Army becomes armies in the plural.  

Rule 5: Where the noun ends with a “y” that’s preceded by a vowel instead of a consonant, you add an “s” at the end.

Examples include:  

  • Donkey becomes donkeys in the plural.  
  • Day becomes days in the plural.  
  • The toy becomes toys in the plural.  

Rule 6: Where the noun or pronoun ends with an “f” or “fe”, you simply replaces the “f” or “fe” with a “v” before adding an “es”.  

Examples Include:  

  • The thief becomes thieves in the plural.  
  • The knife becomes knives in the plural.  
  • Wolf becomes wolves in the plural   Wife becomes wives in the plural.  

 Rule 7: Where the noun ends with an “o” that’s preceded by a consonant, you simply add an “es” to make it plural.  

Examples include:  

  • Mango becomes mangoes in the plural.  
  • Potato becomes potatoes in the plural.  
  • Echo becomes echoes in the plural.  
  • Zero becomes zeroes in the plural.  
  • The hero becomes heroes in the plural.  

Exception 1  

Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule. At times, a word may end with an “o” that’s preceded by a consonant, but fail to follow the rule. These nouns can only be pluralized by adding an “s” at the end instead and they include words such as photo, piano, radio, memo, and canto – all of which require only an “s” at the end to change to plural form (e.g. photos, pianos, radios, memos, and cantos).

Exception 2  

Some nouns that end with an “o” that’s preceded by a consonant, you have the option to either add an “s” or “es” at the end of the word and still be grammatically correct.

Examples include:  

  • Mosquito with mosquitoes or mosquitos as the two plural options.  
  • Commando with commandoes or commandos a the two plural options.
  • Portico with porticos or porticoes as the two plural options.  
  • Memento with mementos or mementos as the two plural options.  
  • Calico with calicoes or calicoes as the two plural options.  

Rule 8: Where the noun ends with an “o” that’s preceded by a vowel instead of a consonant, you simply add an “s” to pluralize it.

Examples include:   

  • Bamboo becomes bamboos in the plural.  
  • Cuckoo becomes cuckoos in the plural.  
  • The portfolio becomes portfolios in the plural.  
  • Cameo becomes cameos in the plural.  

Rule 9: Some nouns will require you to change the middle vowel to pluralize them.  

Examples include:  

  • Man becomes men in the plural.  
  • The woman becomes women in plural.  
  • The foot becomes feet in the plural.  
  • Mouse becomes mice in the plural.  

Rule 10: Some nouns can be pluralized by adding an “en”, “ren”, or “no” at the end.  

  • Ox becomes oxen in the plural.  
  • Child becomes children in plural.  
  • Brother becomes brethren in the plural (brothers is still grammatically correct).  
  • Cow becomes kine plural (cows is still grammatically correct). 
  • Sister becomes sistren (sisters is still grammatically correct).  

Do Adjectives Have a Number Inflection?

The answer is, NO. Adjectives do NOT take the plural form, save for situations when they’re used as nouns.

In which case, modal becomes modals and blonde becomes blondes.

 Verb Agreement:

The subject-verb agreement can be defined as the number of agreement between subject and verb. Which is to say that both of them have to be either in singular or plural form to be grammatically correct.

Speaking of which, in the present tense, verbs form their plural in the opposite way as nouns. So instead of adding an “s” at the end to pluralize them, you add it to make them singular.

  • Chases become chase in the plural.
  • Eats becomes eat in the plural.

Examples in a sentence:

  • She chases the dog after school (singular).
  • They chase the dog after school (plural).

Recommended Video on Singular and Plural Nouns for Brief Knowledge on Number

Source: Periwinkle
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Also, read

Parts of Speech: Definition and Types
Phrases: Definition, Types, and Example
Tense: Types of Tenses with Example and Structure
Degree of comparison 
Moods: Definition, Types, and Examples 
Case: Definition, Types, and Examples
Clauses: Definition, Types, and Examples 
Conditionals: Definition, Types, and Examples

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