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Most English nouns are inflected for grammatical number by adding -s — e.g., cat and cats, where cats is and sounds plural.

So, I wonder, since Lucas, Nicholas, and other English names end with -s, do they sound plural, or evoke plurality, to a native listener?

  • -1 We recognize first names as being names which people are born with. Why should there be any confusion? – Mari-Lou A Sep 6 '13 at 1:47
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No, they don’t.

Plus you should note that they end in an unvoiced /s/ sound. If they were plurals, they would end in a voiced /z/ sound. If you somehow had one “luca” (whatever that might be) and hence several “lucas”, the latter would end in /z/ not in /s/ the way Lucas does.

Think about Ramses, Hercules, Socrates, Menzies, which really do all end in /z/. Nobody thinks of those as more than one of each of those folks. Similarly, trapeze ends in a voiced /z/, but isn’t perceived as plural either.

Even with nouns ending in -s which are inflectionally invariant between singular and plural — words like series and species — you seldom see confusion in native speakers.

The place where native speakers sometimes stumble with forming their singulars and plurals is when English has wholesale-imported both the singular and plural forms of a classical word from Latin or Greek, and word is expected to still follow the rules of an alien declension. They’ll see words that are already plural like bacteria, errata, criteria, or phenomena, and for lack of a final -s will occasionally misconstrue those as singulars instead and so end up creating “double plurals” like *bacterias, *erratas, *criterias, and *phenomenas. (For the record, the respective singulars are bacterium, erratum, criterion, phenemenon.)

A closely related issue occurs with words like crisis, whose plural is crises. It is not uncommon to see people say crisises for the plural. It’s hard to fault them on that one.

  • What does voiced have to do with it? – bib Sep 4 '13 at 1:03
  • @bib Words ending in /s/ instead of /z/ are not plurals to our ear. – tchrist Sep 4 '13 at 1:11
  • Locks, pits, tics, riffs, cups? – bib Sep 4 '13 at 1:14
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    Understood, but your suggestion that voicelessness is the criterion seems overbroad. – bib Sep 4 '13 at 1:57
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    Correcting myself here: In that song, the girl is actually called Luka with a k, not with a c. Luca is a Hungarian variant of Lucy, though, and I doubt most Anglophones would know off-bat to pronounce it [ˈlutˢɒ]. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 6 '13 at 7:18
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No! Why should names ending in 's' sound plural any more than any other noun ending in 's', such as ass, bass, guess, kiss, etc.?

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    As tchrist said, they would if they had a /z/ sound. – dcaswell Sep 4 '13 at 0:24
  • Trevor, I think the answer is oversimplified, if not another case of wrong information. Maybe if you convert it into a comment is better to avoid confusion for future visitors. – user19148 Sep 4 '13 at 10:31
  • @Carlo_R. Please explain what you mean by "wrong information" and "oversimplified". – TrevorD Sep 4 '13 at 11:54
  • Dance ends with an "s" sound (obviously, we don't see whether words ends with the letter S or not) so do trance; face; rice; lettuce etc.. etc.. native speakers don't mistake these words as being plural. The point being that if you hear the request, "Can I have a glass of juice?" you don't think the person is asking for two glasses of different juices. – Mari-Lou A Sep 6 '13 at 1:16
  • @user814064 the OP asked whether names ending in S sound plural to native speakers. Thomas for example is singular, but the OP believes it might be cause of ambiguity because of its final S "sound". I don't see where /ɪz/ comes into it. – Mari-Lou A Sep 6 '13 at 1:54

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