I was watching Planet Earth 2 yesterday and came across this line said by David Attenborough:

At the first sign of danger, the young ibex instinctively run back to steeper ground.

I am thinking it should be "runs" and not "run." Am I right or I am missing something?

UPDATE: The wolf was only chasing ONE Ibex, not more than one. The scene(segment on ibex) was about multiple ibex, but not that(chase) scene. That particular scene was only focused on the Fox and the young Ibex(one/singular), and so my question.

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  • @Max There was only one ibex in the scene. also evident from "the young ibex." – 4-K Nov 16 '16 at 6:50
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    @4-K No, the number is not made "evident" by the phrase "the young ibex", since the plural of "ibex" is also "ibex". If Mr Attenborough were describing only one, obviously, he would use the singular form; if more than one, the plural. I doubt that he would get it wrong! – P. E. Dant Nov 16 '16 at 7:09
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    And having seen the program, I can confirm that there were more than one young ibex involved, so run was correct (they had descended steep mountains to get water and were being chased by a fox). It's possible that the shot on screen at the time he said the phrase may only have had one ibex visible (I can't remember), but the scene as a whole was about multiple ibex. – TripeHound Nov 16 '16 at 9:10
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    Also, this is one of those ridiculous things in English generally... One cat runs, two cats run. It's like we made up a rule about plurals for nouns and then ran out of ses and so had to make the rule for verbs the opposite. – J... Nov 16 '16 at 10:59
  • @J But at least we (usually) have less variants than many/some other languages: I/you(sing)/we/you(pl)/they run vs. he/she/it runs. In French, there are four variants (je/tu cours, il court, nous courons, vous courez, ils courent). – TripeHound Nov 16 '16 at 11:12

I think he was generalising what young ibex (plural) do in the face of danger: run to steeper ground.

In other words, he wasn't just saying that this particular ibex did that (which it did), but all young ibex (generally) do it.

  • It is a bit odd to say "the young ibex" in this case though, implying a singular ibex. The sentence can still work with your interpretation (which is also how I read the sentence) but would be less ambiguous if "the" were omitted. – tvanc Nov 16 '16 at 18:34
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    @turibe Not necessarily, "the" is fine with plural entities. "The people", "The balloons". – Rob Nov 17 '16 at 5:10
  • I think this is exactly right. I found a YouTube clip: m.youtube.com/watch?v=dmyuf54uHrA (the sentence is at around 3:20). It looks like the narrative generalizes it, with what's going in the footage as an example. The narrative is mainly in plural, i.e., "the adults", "the newborn kids", "the kids", "red foxes", etc. – Damkerng T. Nov 17 '16 at 6:09
  • @Rob On second look I don't know why I thought that. – tvanc Nov 17 '16 at 17:29

Well that's a tricky one. If the word "Ibex" is plural then the quote is in correct grammar, AKA run

However, in general English language terms, words that end in "ex" are generally singular, the pluralised version would be as follows:

vertex (singular) -> vertices (plural)

index -> indices

matrix -> matrices

Therefore, Ibex (the animal) should be pluralised to Ibexes, so in that sense the quote is gramatically incorrect. The problem lies in the fact that "Ibex" is rarely used in the English language therefore, the plural noun may not be 100% established, i.e. different English-speaking countries may have different interperetations of the plural noun.

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    Ibex can be pluralized to ibexes or ibices, but ibex is also accepted (and possibly more common). All of your examples (and including ibex) pluralized that way not because of English but because of Latin. It's hard to generalize rules for English – eques Nov 16 '16 at 13:50

There are two accepted plural forms of ibex

One is ibex and the other is ibices.

In the given sentence, I feel that it is a documentary where the general behavior of ibex(plural) is defined and hence the sentence is correct with run.

If it is the case where there is a young ibex(singular) in front of the person writing the sentence and s/he is referring to that particular ibex by 'the' then it should be runs

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    Merriam-Webster: "plural ibex or ibexes". "ibices" is not correct. – Kevin Nov 16 '16 at 18:08
  • @kevin incorrect "ibices" is recognized by several dictionaries and Google as the plural of ibex. This does not mean it is commonly used. – Cc Dd Nov 17 '16 at 2:02

I think, that in this context 'run' is used in a past tense - narrator is describing what just happened and he says that ibex (did) run back.

  • That would still be incorrect grammar. The past tense would be "ran". – GentlePurpleRain Nov 16 '16 at 19:14

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