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A bunch of stuff about plurals

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Colin McIntosh

Credit: Getty Credit: Getty

One of the many ways in which English differs from other languages is its use of uncountable nouns to talk about collections of objects: as well as never being used in the plural, they’re never used with a or an. Examples are furniture (plural in German and many other languages), cutlery (plural in Italian), and information (plural in French). They’re all marked U in the dictionary. They can be made countable, but they need the addition of another word: pieces of furniture, items of cutlery.

One group of words, including some that are new to the Cambridge dictionary, is slightly problematic. Mostly borrowed from Latin, these words are grammatically plural in their original language. Not having a plural –s to show that they’re plural, though, they are reinterpreted as singular (most of us are not fluent in Latin). A very careful…

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