In my quest to learn something new, I started with simple ones where I come across this poem "Why English is hard to learn":

We'll begin with box, the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox is oxens, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, and two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose is never called meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a house full of mice;
But the plural of house is houses, and not hice.
The plural of man is always men,
But the plural of pan is never pen.

If I speak of a foot, and you show me two feet,
And I give you a book, would a pair be a beek :
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't two booths be called beeth ?

If the singular's this and the plural is these,
Should the plural of kiss be ever called keese ?

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him;
But imagine the feminine ... she, shis and shim!

I am enjoying the beauty of this language. It would be great if anybody can clarify why plural in English language this way. Are there rules that can be followed with plural or is it meant to be this way.

  • 1
    There is no "meant to be" for English or any other language. Nobody is designing it. It's just the outcome of millions of individual voices over years, decades, centuries. It's organic and evolved and evolving. It has some quirks. Asking why English has some irregular verbs or declensions is like asking why a particular tree has 113 branches and not 102: that's just the way it grew. Now, that's not to say there aren't some broad rules at play, or that any given exception can't be explained, only that that any expectation of complete regularity is misplaced: that's for algebra, not English. – Dan Bron Jul 21 '16 at 10:39
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    The rule is you add an -s. Then there are the exceptions. It's indeed not how it's meant to be, it's how it is, just like any natural language. – oerkelens Jul 21 '16 at 10:45
  • Agree and that is the beauty of the language. All I wanted to know is if there is a rule I would like to know. For example, if half shoud be halves and calf should be calves it is meant to be like that. So in case there is any such thing not for every noun but for few, then I would like to know about them. – nam Jul 21 '16 at 10:55
  • @nam I'm sure entire papers could be written on pluralization rules in English. Surely a comprehensive grammar like the CGEL must offer some meaningful coverage. But I think the question is too broad for the SE format. And practically speaking, learning the rules won't be of much help to you in actual usage. If one rule turned out to be "Latinate nouns are declined this way, and words with Saxon origins this other way", then you'd be stuck with the puzzle of determining a given word's etymology, so you might as well just look up the standard plural anyway. – Dan Bron Jul 21 '16 at 11:33
  • @DanBron Sure. The more I read and practice the better I might get with the usage :) – nam Jul 21 '16 at 11:43

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