We all know what numbers are. But here, we are not talking about the mathematical numbers that we use to add or subtract. Today, we will discuss numbers in grammar.
In English grammar, number is a grammatical category that helps in identifying the count of a particular something. Number in grammar works similarly to mathematical numbers but is not presented using numerical figures. When we say number in grammar, we refer to number categories related to the count of nouns or pronouns.
There are two categories of numbers in grammar. One is singular and the other is plural. While they also show how many things are present like usual numbers, they have distinct functions and rules. Let us have a look at them below.
What is a number in grammar?
In English grammar, the number is simply a grammatical category. It is the category that aims to give the count of a noun and a pronoun. So, the number simply expresses how many nouns or pronouns are present in a sentence. Sometimes, they also relate to adjectives and verb agreements and describe their count.
In grammar, the count of nouns can be shown in two ways. One is singular, and the other is plural. Thus, we can say that nouns, pronouns, verbs, and determiners can be expressed as either singular or plural.
Types of number in Grammar
1. Singular number
In a very basic sense, a singular number refers to the count of one. That means only one or single noun or pronoun is present.
2. Plural number
On the other hand, the plural number refers to the count of more than one. That means there is more than one number of nouns or pronouns present.
Now, when we say singular and plural, the noun or any word that we are referring to has a distinct structure that indicates its counts. That means, by the structure of the word, we can figure out whether a noun is singular or plural.
Let us look at some very basic examples:
Singular things will be in their base form such as book, boy, school, tree, apple, pencil, telephone, etc.
But when we say plural things, the words will change their base form, such as books, apples, schools, trees, pencils, boys, etc.
However, these are just examples of particular things or nouns. The count can differ in pronouns, determiners, and also verbs. Let us have a look at them;
- singular- dog, house
- plural- dogs, houses
- Singular – I, me, you, he, she, her, it, him, etc.
- Plural – we, they, you, us, them, etc.
- Singular – this, that, a, an, his, her, your, its, my, etc.
- Plural – these, those, your, their, our, etc.
- Singular – Is, am, has, was, etc. (Ex. I sing, she plays.)
- Plural – were, are, have, etc. (Ex. they play.)
- The girl is playing on the basketball ground.
- That woman wanted to know the route to Tokyo.
- Those ladies were waiting for the bus.
- They eat vegetables a lot.
Rules of changing numbers
When we need to change a word from singular to plural, there are some basic rules regarding the grammatical structure of the words that we need to be aware of. The following points will definitely make those rules clear.
1. The first general rule is that we usually add -s at the end of a word to make it plural.
For example, car-cars, school-schools, etc.
2. If the word ends with a letter such as -s, -x, -z, -sh, or -ch, then we add -es instead of -s to make the word plural.
For example, dish-dishes, bus-buses, etc.
3. When a word ends with a -y, we replace the letter y with -ies to make it plural.
For example, cry-cries, fly-flies, etc.
But if the letter before a word ending with -y is a vowel, then we simply add -s at the end of the word. For example; boy-boys, donkey- donkeys, etc.
4. If a singular word ends with the letter -f or -fe, we replace the -f with -v and add -es.
For example, thief-thieves, knife- knives, etc.
5. Some special words do not need -s or -es. They need the replacement of the middle-vowel to make it plural.
For example, man-men, tooth-teeth, etc.
This is especially the case with irregular plural nouns. Irregular nouns are those that do not change their number by -s or -es. They have their unique forms.
For example, child-children, person-people, etc.
Well, these are the main rules when we are referring to nouns.
Further, there are some rules in forming sentences, especially with verbs. The verb form will change according to the number of the word.
• When we use a singular noun in a sentence, the verb will be present with an additional -s at the end.
For example, “The man practices every weekend.”
• But when we are referring to a singular pronoun such as I or you, the verb will be in its base form. However, it will change if we are referring to a third person.
For example, “I love eating fruits.” “She loves eating fruits.”
• When we use a plural noun in a sentence, the verb will be presented in its base or root form.
For example, “They love basketball.” “These kids dance very well.”
Number agreement in a sentence
While forming a sentence with singular and plural numbers, it is very important to see if each part of the sentence is in number agreement or not. The agreements work in the following ways:
Determiners need to agree in number with nouns
- Singular- “This school is open.”
- Plural- “These colleges are open.”
Determiners need to agree in number with pronouns
- Singular- “This one is my favourite.”
- Plural- “I want those ones.”
Nouns should agree in number with verbs
- Singular- “The girl walks for 40 minutes every day.”
- Plural- “The girls walk 20 kilometers every day.”
Pronouns should agree in number with verbs
- Singular- “Everyone is waiting for us.”
- Plural- “Some are still waiting outside.”
So, these are the basic points related to numbers. We have understood that numbers can be of two types in grammar, singular, and plural. And according to these numbers, the structure and elements of a sentence undergo changes.