Know Your Plurals

One of my longstanding clients owns a lovely catering and sandwich delivery business in London.? Just looking at the pictures of his luscious food platters makes my tummy rumble – and this happens at least once a month when I sit down and write his latest newsletter.

This month I was focusing on his range of patisserie platters.? Portuguese custard tarts, croissants, fruit tartlettes and chocolate éclairs are amongst the delicious snacks that are offered as are those French pastries with the chocolate in the middle.

Now, I know that it’s called a pain au chocolat.? And I did French ‘A’ level (admittedly *many* years ago) and so I should probably have known that more than one of them would be ‘pains au chocolat’.? But it got me thinking: sometimes plurals aren’t quite what we expect, are they?

So, here are some

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plural oddities, just in case you’re ever writing about more than one formula or Attorney General.

Plural oddities

One of the most common mistakes that writers make is to simply add an ‘s’ to the end of a noun to pluralise it.? While that may work with a cat, a key or a football, it won’t necessarily work in all cases.

Jobs are a common source of confusion as, quite often, they don’t follow a pattern.? For example, you might have several brigadier generals, judge advocates or lieutenant colonels.? However, there may be a different group of attorneys general, sergeants major, paymasters general and notaries public.

You see the problem?

And it’s not just jobs that can cause confusion.? If you’re dealing with more than one pelvis, it’ll be pelves.? More than one bandit?? Banditti.? And more than one cannon?? Cannon.

Here’s a list of a few unusual pluralised words, just in case you’re ever writing for a company that sells piccolos or oxen.

Daughter-in-law? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Daughters-in-law

Potato? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

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? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Potatoes (that’s for Dan Quayle, that one)

Opus? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Opera

Teaspoonful? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Teaspoonfuls

Mister? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Messrs.

Table d’hote? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Tables d’hote

Manservant? ? ?

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? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Menservants

Ox? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Oxen

Cul-de-sac? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Culs-de-sac

Crisis? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Crises

Court martial? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Courts martial

Formula? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Formulae

Piccolo? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Piccolos

Please share any other unusual plurals in the comments below…

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