I've been wondering, since these example numbers end with 1, isn't it natural to use the following noun in its singular form?

From what I've been seeing around on the web this does not seem to be the case. All numbers except for 1 are followed by plural nouns.

In some languages you do need to use the singular form with the numbers ending with 1.

How is it supposed to be in English?

  • There's no "supposed to be": that's how it is (i.e. how native speakers use the language). – Colin Fine Apr 19 '11 at 13:03
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    @Mr Hen: which is why it was a comment and not an answer. Developer Art seems to know what the answer is, and is asking about some mythical "supposed to". – Colin Fine Apr 20 '11 at 9:50
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    @Developer Art: I'm sorry if I've offended you. You seemed to me to be saying "Does English do what seems natural to me, and what some other languages do? No, it apparently doesn't", but then persisting with your question in the face of the evidence you had gathered. – Colin Fine Apr 21 '11 at 20:29
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    Downvoters: you may wish to review the site rules and objectives here and here. This is a good question, which shouldn't be downvoted. – Evgeni Sergeev Oct 18 '14 at 22:44
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    I'm also surprised by the amount of downvotes: 8 downvotes! The question is valid and good. In Russian we use singular endings if the preceding numeral ends in one: "61 passenger boarded the ship". – CowperKettle Apr 24 '15 at 8:28

In English, the singular is used for one thing, and the plural is generally used for anything else. This includes more than one (any number), as well as zero.

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    +1; To add to this answer, the last digit is irrelevant. 21 does not get special treatment because of the 1. English cares about quantity; not the 1 in and of itself. – MrHen Apr 19 '11 at 15:33

Plural means more than 1. (Well, something like that. You can also have 0 items, which is less than 1, but still given the plural form.)

If you have 21 of something, then you have more than 1 of it.

The plural form of item is items.

So the correct way is 21 items.

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    F'x's answer is more correct. Negative numbers also use plurals. The only thing that gets a singular is exactly one. – MrHen Apr 19 '11 at 15:32
  • Isn't -1 also singular? – aslum Apr 19 '11 at 17:17
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    @aslum: I can sort of be: "You have -1 item" is OK, but "you have -1 items" is also valid. – Matt E. Эллен Apr 19 '11 at 17:33

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