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Can all country names be pluralised in English?

There are some countries which have a plural form, although such name is, for obvious reasons, not used - for example, Sicily - Sicilies (I know Sicily is not a country & the reason it has a plural form of its name), Malta - Maltas, Italy - Italies, America - Americas.

If so, what would the plural name of 'France' be? Frances doesn't seem correct.

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    What use are you trying to make of plural country names? Oct 3, 2021 at 16:15
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    To suggest that one country (or one's experience in one country) is actually different for one person than it is for another, @killingtime, if that makes sense. "There are two Sicilies", for example, "and my Sicily is different from yours." Oct 3, 2021 at 16:23
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    Frances seems just right to me.
    – Jim
    Oct 3, 2021 at 17:16
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    Out of context, hardly anybody would understand Frances (it looks like a woman's name). In context, it makes perfect sense.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 3, 2021 at 18:02
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    Americas refers to the two continents with that name in their title, not to countries.
    – user207421
    Oct 4, 2021 at 1:03

4 Answers 4

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Can't we always form a plural for a place/country that isn't already a plural, like The Bahamas or the Netherlands? Suppose I want to say There are really two Xs: the one the tourists see and the one I will tell you about.

Note that two plural spellings appear to be in use for some countries ending in y.

I have sometimes been tempted to think that, as the mythologists make mention of three Jupiters, so there must be at least two Englands. In her past history, I have observed indications of a compound nature as diverse as her twofold language; and in recent times they seem to contend for mastery. It is with one only that I have to do at present. Aubrey De Vere; English Misrule and Irish Misdeeds (1848)

Cold and sea will train an imperial Saxon race, which nature cannot bear to lose, and after cooping it up for a thousand years in yonder England, gives a hundred Englands, a hundred Mexicos. All the bloods it shall absorb and domineer: and more than Mexicos, the secrets of water and steam, the spasms of electricity, the ductility of metals, the chariot of the air, the ruddered balloon are awaiting you. Ralph Waldo Emerson; Conduct for Life (1860)

"There are two Frances, and theirs is the bad one"—Bishop of Amiens, 1895
Robert Tombs; France 1814-1914

There have always, he argues, been two Frances, one turning its face to the sea, dreaming of free trade and distant adventures, and the other, the France of the land, stuck-in-the-mud and embedded in inflexible constrains. F. Braudel; Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vol. III

A century ago, the red and the black referred to the struggle between two Frances, one anticlerical, socialist, universalist; the other Catholic, conservative, nationalist. B. E. Brown; Protest in Paris

In Portugal this same fundamental split between liberals and conservatives was present, even though its expressions were not quite so bloody.
From the eighteenth century onward, therefore, two Spains and two Portugals grew up. Howard J. Wiarda; Iberia and Latina America

Mary Fulbrook; Interpretations of the Two Germanies, 1945-1990 (2000)

Roy E. H. Mellor The Two Germanies: A Modern Geography (1978)

Christopher Hilton; After the Berlin Wall: Putting Two Germanys Back Together Again (2009)

Frank E. Manual; The Two Spains (1956)

McKinsey Global Institute and E. Bolio; A Tale of Two Mexicos (2014)

Joseph Luzzi; My Two Italies (2014)

H. L. Mathews; A Tale of Two Italys (2019)

M. Dunford and L. Greco; After the Three Italies: Wealth, Inequality and Industrial Change (2011)

An illustration of this front dynamic with Dutch populism is the 'Two Netherlands' speech of Geert Wilders at the Budget Review of 2009:

"The realm of Blakenende is a kingdom of two Netherlands...On the one hand our elite, with their so-called ideals. Of a multicultrual society, the mega-high taxes, the lunatic climate hysteria...The other Netherlands consists of the people that have to pay the bill, literally and figuratively."
R. Wodak et al.; Right-Wing Populism in Europe

We do the same for other names. I know two Charleys and two Charlies. Mr. and Mrs. Brown (and their children) are the Browns even though that's not their last name. We say neither *two Italy nor *all the Brown.

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    Philip III (“the Prudent”) was King of all the Spains (Castile, Aragon, Valencia, Navarre, Galicia, Portugal, Leon and Catalonia). Oct 3, 2021 at 20:18
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    We might distinguish a geographic and a figurative plural. Then we have alternate worlds: the Canadas on Earth I and Earth II.
    – DjinTonic
    Oct 3, 2021 at 20:29
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    @MichaelHarvey: The Russian tsars also styled themselves "Emperor of All The Russias". Oct 4, 2021 at 16:53
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    @Jasper Two Netherlands – example added.
    – DjinTonic
    Oct 5, 2021 at 12:01
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    It should be noted that the plurals in some of the examples are used in a non-figurative sense. "The Two Germanies, 1945-1990" were in fact two very different countries.
    – not2savvy
    Oct 6, 2021 at 15:54
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In addition to the "two Frances" use, the use of plurals for synecdoche, representing ad-hoc groups of countries by referring to some of their members, is not uncommon.

"As we look to the world reopening and travel resuming, the Italies and Frances are a little behind Israel in terms of when we anticipate travel will reopen. And that's due to vaccines," said Brian Znotins, vice president of network and schedule planning at American Airlines (AAL.O), referring to two other tourist destinations. (Israel targets tourism boost after rapid COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, Steven Scheer, Reuters)

There are not enough Canadas and Australias to fix the problems that Brexit will bring to the British people ("Britain Shouldn’t Put Its Money on a Post-Brexit Rapprochement With Africa", Oluwatosin Adeshokan, Foreign Policy)

The problem of financial irresponsibility and widespread dishonesty by the rich and powerful suggests a need to regulate the Andorras, Liechtensteins and Panamas, the "don't ask because we won't tell" havens which shelter vast sums from the tax collectors and which disappear the ill-gotten gains of corrupt officials and elites (Economic Governance in the Age of Globalization, p378-379, William K. Tabb, Columbia University Press, 2004)

An Iceland, a Switzerland, or a Sweden will be thrilled when they win against an England, a Spain, or an Italy because your Englands and Spains and Italies are either favourites to challenge for trophies, or at least they're legitimately trying to become teams that can challenge for trophies (forum post, "BestOf")

Less developed countries ‘have to stand up to the Chinas, Indias and Brazils”, Neal Leary

The WTO offers a robust rules-based framework to manage global trading relationships. It offers a chance to integrate the emerging economies – not just the Indias and Brazils and Chinas of this world, but also the weakest and most vulnerable developing countries – into the global trading system ("Trade and the NZ Dairy Industry", speech, Phil Goff, New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

The Uruguays, Japans, Fijis, and Samoas of this world need to be cherished for what their bring to the sport, not dismissed as mere canon fodder for the elite dining at the top table. ("World Rugby should cherish the tier-two nations, not belittle them", Ovalmauls)

They're trying to catch up with the Canadas and Japans of the world ("The world's CO2 emissions fell in 2015. But don't celebrate just yet.", Brad Plumer, Vox)

In this usage, the implication is "this country and others like it", providing one or two representative examples to represent the entire set of countries similar on whatever axis is being used.

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For most speakers, metaphorical There are two Frances (two versions of the country called France) is probably indistinguishable from There are two Franceses (two people called Frances), but in context it's unlikely there would ever be any confusion. And the links into Google Books show that both versions are in use.

But there's another rather less contrived aspect to consider when pluralising Italy, Hungary, etc. To me, it's obvious that proper names ending in Y should just have an s appended (so it's three Hail Marys, not three Hail Maries). But apparently not all writers see this as such an obvious aspect of English syntax / orthography...

enter image description here

I can't explain1 why so many of my fellow countrymen don't apply the same principle to the name Italy that they do to Kennedy (that link shows two Kennedies is virtually unknown by comparison with two Kennedys).


1 Per comment from Chris, perhaps some people are being "misguidedly" influenced by country / countries with Italys / Italies. It's also worth noting that C19 texts massively favour two Germanies, whereas C20 usage is more or less evenly split. At least more people are gradually coming to recognise that country names shouldn't be arbitrarily tinkered with for the sake of misapplied syntax rules.

EDIT: It's just been pointed out to me that there's a Kansas City in Kansas and "another" one in Missouri. I've no idea why people were so motivated refer to both of them collectively in the 40s and 50s - but as you can see from this NGram, they usually did so as the Kansas Citys.

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    No, I don't think there's any defensible "principle" underpinning the difference between countries and people here. The Italys / Italies distinction is quite extreme, but more people get it "right" with two Hungarys, for example. But I could easily believe that at least some of the people who get it "wrong" (by my lights) are being misled by extrapolation from country / countries. Oct 4, 2021 at 12:39
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    I think Vatican City is a special case Even I can't really get my head around two Vatican Citys. But there are a handful of references to two Vatican Cities in Google Books, and I'm not gonna argue with that orthography! Oct 4, 2021 at 12:57
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    The rule that "country names shouldn't be arbitrarily tinkered with" strikes me as actually a rather odd one - we are already "tinkering" when we use an "s" to indicate the plural regardless of the name's origin so why would we not also apply the "y" -> "ies" rule? The spelling "Italys" just looks bizarre to me, and I'm surprised to see anyone consider it correct.
    – IMSoP
    Oct 4, 2021 at 17:02
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    @WaterMolecule Rugby is a sport similar to what the USA laughingly calls football, except that the players don't wear body armour and the play is way more aggressive. Take off his protective gear, and the average NFL professional would be on a stretcher within 5 minutes against a rugby team. There are some safety rules, but "poking your opponent's eye out during a tackle is illegal" would be typical one. Historically, professional rugby in the UK was mostly played by former coal miners, and they applied the same standards on the pitch as when down the mine.
    – alephzero
    Oct 4, 2021 at 19:40
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    @PeteKirkham: I see you resisted the temptation to write Both citys were affected! :) Oct 5, 2021 at 11:40
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Can I add two points to what has been said above?

  1. While there is only one Sicily today, there was a Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (actually Sicily + Naples) from 1816-1860. So Sicily has a perfectly good plural. Moreover, we currently have two Koreas, as well as an ongoing dispute about whether there are one or two Chinas.
  2. IMHO the point about Hail Mary's, above, is not a consequence of Mary being a proper name, but rather the phrase "Hail Mary" being "headless": "Mary" is a woman's name, but "Hail Mary" is the name of a prayer, not of a woman. (I think that "Maries" is archaic: there is a Child ballad entitled The Four Marys or The Fower Maries "This verse suggests Mary Hamilton was one of the famous Four Maries, four girls named Mary who were chosen by the queen mother and regent Mary of Guise to be companion ladies-in-waiting to her daughter, the child monarch Mary, Queen of Scots".

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