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Irregular plural nouns: the base plural

Some nouns look the same whether they're singular or plural – these nouns are called "base plurals", and we'll demonstrate how they behave the only way I know how... by using sheep!

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hello grammarians. I wanted to talk today about a different kind of irregular plural. So we've been talking about regular plurals where you take a word and you add an S. So for example, the word dog becomes dogs. You add an S. And this is the regular plural here. But I've been talking about the irregular plural, the plural, the multiple form of a verb that is not regular, irregular. But today I figured we'd talk about something called the base plural. Which I will illustrate for you using our friend the sheep. Now, sheep is a very strange word in that it doesn't matter whether not there's more than one of them. The form of the word always looks the same whether it's one sheep or two sheep. It's an irregular plural you don't add an S to. This is called a base plural 'cause the base sheep, the thing that you would normally add this particle S to doesn't change whether it's singular sheep or plural sheep. So that's you know. There was one sheep... on the hill. There's a sentence. What if we put another little baby sheep on that hill? A little lamb. Well now the sentence looks like this. Two sheep... on the hill. Now the only difference between these two sentences is that there's one sheep and two sheep and therefore that means that the verb changes to a plural conjugation. So there was one sheep. There were two sheep on the hill. But everything else stays exactly the same. One sheep, two sheep. This is very strange, it's a base plural. So in standard English, the form is two sheep... and not two sheeps. You see. Now, there are more words that do behave this way. So let's go investigate. So there are a small number of words that also behave this way, the way sheep does, these weird sheep plurals, these base plurals. One of them is fish. So you could say the fish are plentiful this season, but you could also say, you know, the fish... is delicious. You could say the bison migrate west or you could also say the bison migrates west indicating a single bison, you see. Bison can be singular or plural. Fish can be singular or plural. As is so frequently the case, there is a special exception regarding the word fishes, which you may have heard before, and fishes is a word that we would use when we're talking about individual species of fish. And fish is the word that we would use to refer to individual fish. So let's say your uncle Marty is a prodigious fisherman and he catches, he goes fly fishing one weekend, he comes back, he has 30 fish. Marty caught... 30 fish. But let's say on the other hand your aunt Marta is a prodigious marine biologist and she studies 30 different types of fish. You would say Marta studies... 30 fishes. And that doesn't mean that she studies 30 individual fish. That means she studies 30 types of fish. That's the difference. Fishes is referring to species. Fish refers to individuals. That's how you'd use them in the plural. So to review, there's this entire class of words called base plurals where the word itself, the base, doesn't take an S for the plural, it's just the same. The singular is the same as the plural. So that gives us words like sheep, fish, and bison. There aren't a ton of English words that behave this way where the plural is the same as the singular. I just wanted to make you aware of some of the most common ones. There are also more examples in the exercises. So I just wanted you to be aware of them. You can learn anything. David out.