I found the following expression in dictionary.

large herds of elephant and buffalo

A herd must be more than one, why using singular not plural?


Elephant can be plural, like deer.

See the Merriam-Webster entry for elephant:

el·e·phant noun, often attributive \ˈe-lə-fənt\

plural elephants also elephant

Buffalo also can be plural, like deer (and elephant).

See the Merriam-Webster entry for buffalo:

buf·fa·lo noun, often attributive \ˈbə-fə-ˌlō\

plural buf·fa·lo or buf·fa·loes also buf·fa·los

  • I think you should add that the alternative plurals, with -s, are also acceptable in this context--herds of elephants, as noted by Peter Shor in his comment to Roaring Fish's response, and that only plurals or collectives are acceptable in this context— "herds of cow" or "flocks of goose" would not be acceptable to most speakers. Sep 15 '12 at 15:30
  • 1
    @StoneyB I wonder whether there isn’t something else going on here. Notice how with game animals, herd of often but not always takes a singular noun as a collective. You would not say “How many elephant are at that zoo?”, after all. Consider: herd of rhinoceros, herd of antelope, herd of pronghorn — all of which have regular plurals that are not (usually) used here. You can also find plenty of instances of herd of zebra and even herd of walrus and herd of yak. For some reason, hunting terms don’t always pluralize: brace of quail.
    – tchrist
    Sep 15 '12 at 15:54
  • @tchrist That's interesting. And one often (or at least occasionally) hunts or shoots or traps elephant, antelope, goat, lion, pheasant, raccoon, &c, and it's always Xhunt, not Xshunt. Perhaps these are all derived by analogy with the "master" term deer? Sep 15 '12 at 16:08
  • @tchrist: hunting terms are (sometimes deliberately) obscure. It's three brace of quail and three couple of hounds, though you'd expect couples just like herds. Sep 15 '12 at 16:10
  • @TimLymington But those may be (if you please) coupled with "pair" -- three pair of socks or trousers. Perhaps a survival from the lost dual? Sep 15 '12 at 16:18

I think your dictionary is correct, and that more than one herd of elephants is "herds of elephant".

"Hippos fight for territory while herds of elephant, water buffalo and zebra depend on it for life." > http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dq07f

"We begin with game viewing in the delightful Tarangire National Park, where herds of Elephant roam" > http://www.classicjourneys.co.uk/content.asp?id1=131

"...the largest herds of elephant in Africa." > http://www.safari-club.co.uk/botswana-safaris/

"see lions, leopards, herds of elephant, giraffe and much more" > http://www.hfholidays.co.uk/holidays/kenyan-safari

The reasoning is that you are indicating that there is more than one herd, rather that indicating that there is more than one elephant. Used in this way, with the focus on the herd, 'elephant' is the material the herd is composed of, so in the same way that we say cups of coffee or bars of chocolate, we say herds of elephant.

  • The reason we say cups of coffee is because coffee is not something that can be broken down into a single unit (ie: cannot be counted). You can count coffee beans, or droplets of coffee, but not coffee itself. The same for chocolate - you can count it in granules or squares; saying "I had three chocolates" implies three pieces of chocolate. In contrast, elephants are individual units, and so the noun can be pluralized. For more examples, see RoaringFish's comment to mgb's question (boxes of crayons, cartons of eggs, etc).
    – dj18
    May 15 '12 at 14:30
  • The OP is not asking about the plural of elephant. He is asking about the plural of a herd of elephants. The whole point of using coffee and chocolate as examples is that they are uncountable which parallels the way 'elephant' is being used as an uncountable("Used in this way, with the focus on the herd, 'elephant' is the material the herd is composed of"). If that surprises you, think of fish: we say "all the fish in the sea" but go to the shop and ask for "three fishes, please". May 15 '12 at 14:52
  • Hmmm! "The reasoning is that you are indicating that there is more than one herd, rather that indicating that there is more than one elephant."??????? +1 anyway :)
    – user21032
    May 15 '12 at 17:07
  • @RoaringFish Sorry for ambiguity in my question. I meant to ask about plural of elephant or buffalo :'(
    – Johnny Lim
    May 16 '12 at 1:59
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    -1: No, the plural of herd of elephant is herds of elephant, and the plural of herd of elephants is herds of elephants. See this Ngram, which shows herds of elephants is the most common and herds of elephant is the least common (it's missing just because it's too rare for Google Ngrams to chart it ... it's definitely used). The plurality of "herd" has no effect on the plurality of "elephant". Sep 15 '12 at 14:43

Because they are all of the type elephant

It's a herd of elephant amimals

  • A box of crayons; a fleet of ships; a carton of eggs; a school of whales; and a herd of elephants. The question is asking how to make a plural when there is more than one herd of elephants. May 15 '12 at 5:11

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