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in accordance with usage if we regard them as singular or as plural, we should place a verb after them and also observe whether they are more appropriately qualified by this or these, much or many. Does it sound more natural to say 'This odds is too great,' or 'These odds are too great'? to say 'Much pains has been taken,' or 'Many pains have been taken'? The usage of different people may vary.
Mathematics, physics, statics, and several similar words are plural forms taken from Greek adjectives. A century ago they were followed by a verb in the plural, and politics continues to take a verb in the plural. But, with the exception of the word politics, these nouns are now used as singular words.
(4) Some nouns change their meaning in the Plural.
Domino means 'a mask,' dominoes 'a game': vapour means 'steam,' vapours 'ill-humour': compass 'a mariner's compass,' compasses 'instruments for measuring': vesper 'evening,' vespers 'evening service': good means 'anything good,' goods means 'chattels.'
(5) A few nouns have two forms of the Plural with different meanings, the ordinary form being plural and the anomalous form having a collective force. Pennies means separate coins, pence is collective: 'Can you give me six pennies for this sixpence?' Brother has the collective plural brethren, meaning members of the same community. Die, 'a stamp,' makes a plural dies, ‘stamps,' and a collective dice, 'cubes' used in gambling. Cloth makes cloths, signifying different kinds or different pieces of cloth, and also clothes, the collection of one's garments. Fish has for its plural fishes: "The multitude were fed with a few fishes'; but for its collective fish: 'He brought home a large basket of fish.' The word pea has lost the s in the singular by mistake: in the French pois it is still visible. But in its reduced form it has a plural peas, 'This pod contains six peas,' and a collective pease, as in 'pease pudding.'
Index and genius have different plural forms, neither of which is however collective. Indexes means 'more than one table of contents'; geniuses 'more than one person of genius.' But indices means certain ‘algebraical signs,' and genii ‘Eastern spirits.'
(6) Some nouns have no Plural.
This is because their meaning excludes the idea of plurality. We saw that abstract nouns, while they remain abstract, cannot be used in the plural. Many of these nouns do occur in the plural, but they have then ceased to be abstract and have become concrete general names. Observation alone will show us which nouns are used in this double way
and which are not. Hope, hardship, joy, colour, are abstract nouns which we use as concretes when we speak of hopes, hardships, joys, colours. On the other hand, manhood, indolence, goodness, freedom, are always abstract and singular.
We noticed also that though the names of many substances or materials are used in the plural number, signifying different kinds or different portions of the material, there are some names of this description which custom forbids us to use in this way. Granite, gold, potash, bread, hemp, are never plural. The names of some diseases also are always singular, e.g. gout, consumption, rheumatism.
(7) Some nouns have no Singular.
These nouns denote things composed of separate parts, and the complex character of the object makes the plural form appropriate. E.g. scissors, tweezers, trousers, entrails.
(8) Plural of Compound nouns.
i. When the combination of parts is so complete that we regard the compound as a single word, the sign of the plural is added at the end of the compound, although the last part of the word may be an adjective. Thus we say spoonfuls when the words form a compound, but spoons full when they are taken separately.
ii. But when the fact of composition is brought prominently before us by hyphens, as in brother-in-law, man-of-war, maid-of-honour, groom-of-the-chambers, the principal noun and not the qualifying adjunct usually takes the inflexion. Our practice however in this matter is by no means uniform. In spite of the hyphen in attorney-general, we speak of two attorney-generals, not attorneys-general, though these officials are not generals but attorneys. Again, lady superintendent becomes lady superintendents, not ladies superintendent, though the words are unconnected even by a hyphen. Notice that the 's of the possessive case is added at the end of the compound word. Thus we should say 'I have three brothers-in-law, and I am staying at my eldest brother-in-law's house.'
iii. In a very few instances, both parts of the compound take the sign of the plural: men-servants, lords-justices, knights-templars. We may regard this as apposition.
iv. In a few instances, in which the noun comes before the adjective, only the noun takes the sign of the plural: courts-martial, knights
Nouns compounded with man form their plural in men, with the exception of Norman. Notice however that several proper nouns with this ending are not compounds of man at all, and their plurals are therefore formed in s. German probably comes from a Keltic word which signifies 'one who shouts.' Brahman, Ottoman, Turcoman, Mussulman, are unconnected with man.
(9) How shall we form the Plural of (a) Miss Brown, and of (b) Mr Smith?
(a) We may say (1) The Miss Browns, or (2) The Misses Brown, or conceivably, though as a fact we never do say so, (3) The Misses Browns. The usual form is the first, 'The Miss Browns', in which we must regard Miss-Brown as a complete compound, like spoonful, which takes the sign of the plural at the end. The second form, 'The Misses Brown', corresponds in its type to courts-martial, Miss being regarded as the noun, and Brown dwindling away to an adjective in its force. In the third form, 'The Misses Browns', we have a mode of expression analogous to lords-justices, the two nouns being in apposition and each of them taking the inflection.
(b) Similarly we may say in practice either 'The Mr Smiths,' or 'The Messrs (Messieurs) Smith.' The grammatical justification of these alternative forms the reader can supply for himself.
I. Write the plurals of German, Dutchman, Norman, story, storey, octavo, roof, reef, cuckoo, buffalo, formula, radius, crocus, datum, axis, appendix, genus, series, virtuoso, criterion, madam, dilettante.
2. Write the plurals of jay, journey, difficulty, colloquy, chief, staff, quarto, die, cloth, half, son-in-law, Miss Williams.
3. Write the plurals of butterfly, shelf, wharf, ox, man-of-war, oasis, index, simile, automaton, stratum, focus, caucus, terminus, cargo, portmanteau.
4. Show how the addition of the plural sign -s entirely alters the meaning of some English nouns.
5. Greek adjectives supply us with the forms logic, dynamic, optic, metaphysic, rhetoric, physic, politic. To which of these is an è added to make the name of a science?
6. Write the plurals of strife, topaz, solo, echo, Mary, fife, bureau, elk, species, ellipsis, rhinoceros, hippopotamus.
Mention some nouns about whose plural forms there is variety of usage, and some which have been taken for plurals though really singulars.
7. The following nouns have two meanings in the plural but only one in the singular. Give their plural meanings:-custom, spectacle, manner, effect.
8. The following nouns vary in meaning according as they are singular or plural. What meaning has each of them in the plural? salt, force, iron, content, draught, beef.
9. With each of the following nouns should a verb be used in the singular or the plural number?—alms, banns, optics, poultry, scissors, salmon, sheep, sixpence, thanks.
Give a reason for your answer when you can.
Mention three English nouns which have two plural forms, the one with a collective, the other with a distributive force.
FI. Are the verbs right in these sentences?
The innings was finished at six o'clock-A gallows has been erected inside the prison-The tidings are false-The barracks has been burnt down-The odds is 7 to 2-The alms is distributed on Sunday—A summons has been issued.
12. Are the following words strictly of the singular or of the plural number?—eaves, tidings, alms, news, riches, means.
Mention some nouns which have only a singular form, and some which have only a plural form.
13. In what number would you put the verb which is to agree with news, ethics, summons, the odds, gentry, fish, firearms, tongs?
14. Give examples of nouns which have (1) a plural inflexion without a plural sense, (2) a plural sense without a plural inflexion.
15. State and illustrate the rules for the formation of the plural of compound nouns.
16. Form the plural of pailful, forget-me-not, spendthrift, lordlieutenant, runaway, poet-laureate, hanger-on, maid-in-waiting, will-o'the-wisp, four-in-hand, valet-de-chambre, envoy extraordinary, minister plenipotentiary.
17. Write the plurals of the following compound nouns:-manservant, maid-servant, man-of-all-work, passer-by, looker-on, onlooker, castaway, prince-consort, lord justice, camel-driver.
18. Is there anything wrong in speaking of ‘a curious phenomena,' 'two octopi,' or in saying 'A rich strata of gold has been struck'?
INFLEXION OF NOUNS.-III. CASE.
94. If we examine the following sentences, we shall see that they contain various assertions about a thing called a town, which stands in different relations to other things called enemies, walls, or circumstances. 'The town admitted the enemy.' 'The enemy took the town.' 'The walls of the town were destroyed.' 'This circumstance was beneficial to the town.' 'The enemy were driven away from the town. Thus, in the first sentence we say that the town did something to the enemy,-not, of course, the word town to the word enemy; what occurred was done by a thing to a thing, not by a word to a word. In the second, we say that the town occupied a different relation towards the enemy, and the enemy did something to the town. Now, when we employ language to record these events,-when we make assertions about these things, we use nouns to name the things and verbs to make our statements, and we may then say that just as the things stand in different relations to other things and to acts, so our nouns stand in different relations to other nouns and to verbs. There is an indefinite number of these relations, expressed in English for the most part by prepositions. We can say in the town, through the town, across, down, up, over, under, round the town, and so on, marking in every instance some fresh relation.