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In our Nepali language a term वचन(read as: bachan) is used to denote singular and plural form. Is there any term used for this in English?

What do I mean is :

Singular -> one
Plural -> more than one 
SOME_TERM -> Singular and/or Plural

Does the SOME_TERM exists in English?

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    Do you mean grammatical number? – snailcar Feb 2 '14 at 11:21
  • Maybe there's no such terminology? – amateur Feb 4 '14 at 11:07
  • I think what you are looking for might be the term "plural marker". For example, "The plural is formed with the help of the plural marker -haru" In English, the plural marker is usually the suffix -s, or -es. – stangdon Feb 8 '15 at 19:16
  • The question is not very clear, and the Nepali linguistic not well explained, we need more information to compare. – Quidam May 9 '17 at 9:20
  • @Quidam thanks for your attention. I was trying to ask for the existence of collective term which denotes both singular and plural in English. – Lekhnath May 9 '17 at 9:50
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You don't explain the Nepali system very clear. I understand that you have a suffix that expresses the idea the noun can be either singular or plural. There is no such thing in English or other European languages I know. The normal thing is an ending for plural and that is actually enough. If you have need to speak of one or several persons/things you normally say: all persons/things or every person/thing. That expresses the idea: one and all others.

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    As I understand it, the OP is not asking if there is a suffix/declension in English that disguises whether the noun is singular or plural. He is asking if there is a grammatical label to describe a noun's grammatical number which covers the situation where the number is Singular and/or Plural. Because English nouns don't have that character, I don't think there's a specific label other than "grammatical number". [There are of course nouns whose plural form is identicial to their singular form, and there are collective nouns, but those are different things.] – toandfro Feb 2 '14 at 19:06
  • @toandfro You understand me correctly, all I need is just a label to make a filter in my application (end requirement for asking this question, although I did not mention it in my question. But the question is asking for the existence of SOME_TERM in english). And yes grammatical number suits for this one. – Lekhnath Feb 4 '14 at 6:50
  • @rogermue I learned a new thing from you and I am happy to learn, but I was just asking for the existence of SOME_TERM in english. – Lekhnath Feb 4 '14 at 6:58
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In English you can use 'a' or 'an' to designate singular form , so 'an elephant', 'a dress', 'a problem' will be always about a single item. However, you can't use 'a' or 'an' with every noun, since some do not have a singular form such as the word 'pants' for example. So if you want to relay information without using a number for singular, use the 'a' or 'an'.

There are more exclusions than just the word 'pants' unfortunately, and this is where it may get confusing. There are also some nouns that show quantity bigger than one which use 'a' or 'an' and the word itself designating the quantity is singular. Makes no sense? Keep reading and I will explain.

The word 'bunch' is one of them, so 'a bunch of flowers' or 'a bunch of letters' would literally mean 'a single group (bunch) in which there are many letters'.

Which leads us to the word 'bunch'. A box, a bag, a container designates a single item , yet inside that single item there are always (assumed by listener) more than one.

For plural, in American English, you can use an abstract word such as 'bunch' which will lead the listener to assume there was some quantity greater than one but the quantity is not important enough to the overall message.

It's important to note that 'bunch' has a limit, since a 'bunch of assignments' is less than 'many assignments', 'lots', or even less than 'a whole bunch of assignments', yet is less than 'a couple of assignments' or 'a few assignments' , though all designate some unknown quantity greater than one.

So if you tell someone that you won a "bunch of money in the casino", the reply is likely to be (from a friend) 'How much?', since your used a word that hides the importance of the exact quantity "bunch". So if you reply 'I won $2!', the listener will think you are making a joke.

Also the use of they/them/us/we/he/she/it automatically lets the listener infer the quantity, so 'and then they shot them' vs. 'and then he shot it' vs. ' and then they shot at us' instantly lets the listener know (a) the size of group doing the shooting (b) the size of group being shot at (c) whether the person telling the story was in any of the groups or a bystander.

The following curse/slang expression, especially in cities like New York, is used quite often (less frequently around people in power such as teachers, judges, grandparents or bosses) is 'f*ck-load' which means a lot - 'My boss gave me a fu*ck-load of work, so I can't make your poetry recital tonight'. It is best not to use this except around people who enjoy using slang themselves, unless you have a 'f*ckload of people with guns running behind you and you are screaming for everyone to hide'.

Edit:

Here is something - the word 'you' can be singular or plural. If a teacher is looking at one student, while tapping another one on the shoulder and then turns around and says 'you, come with me', there is a good chance that both students will first look at each other in a confused way to decide if one, or both or the whole class should follow. This confusion is sometimes qualified by using 'you all' or 'you two' or 'just you' , but not always, which leads (though not often to confusion).

As for irregular words that are both plural and singular, there are maybe a dozen of them: deer, shrimp, sheep, fish, moose, scissors, pants.. these are both plural and singular simultaneously.

  • I enjoyed reading your answer, I learned more from you and thank you for your great explanation. But for now what do I need is just a label that means Singular and Plural at once.Thanks a lot.. – Lekhnath Feb 4 '14 at 6:37
  • If you are asking for a word, suffix, prefix that automatically makes groups word both singular and plural, then you will not find anything like this in English as a general rules, and if you do then it must be so obscure that nobody will understand what you are saying anyway, so why bother learning it. English is a very precise language , so to create a layer of abstraction so not to reveal too much, people use expressions to blur this aspect of the language. – NickNo Feb 4 '14 at 9:09

protected by J.R. Jul 10 at 18:04

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