CS Sealey

New Zealand-based sub-editor, writer and author

Zero plural marker nouns

A zero plural marker is a noun that appears singular but is actually a plural.

Think of a noun, any noun. Because I’m me, I instantly think cat, so let’s go with that for a moment. Cat is what is referred to as a count noun, a noun that can be counted. When there are multiple, the word cat becomes cats. The ‘s’ here is called a plural marker. When words abide by this rule (or other variations of the rule—think candelabrum and candelabra, for example), they are regular nouns.

However, when a noun that becomes plural does not include the plural marker, it is called a zero plural marker noun. They are irregular nouns and are few in number. Here are some examples:

One sheep, two sheep, many sheep

One deer, two deer, many deer

One fish, two fish, many fish

Others include:

One aircraft, many aircraft

One offspring, several offspring

A single moose, too many moose

The bison, the herd of bison

One foot, six foot (measurement)

A pound, ten pound (currency)

A stone, three stone (weight)

However, do not confuse a zero plural marker noun with a mass noun, as explained here.

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