I have a question about basic English usage. It would be very grateful if you could think about the question one time.

Nouns have two different forms, singular form and plural form as all English texts say. As to singular form, does "the + singular N" always imply "one N", not "more than one N"?

For example,

Peter came toward me, took me by the arm and drew me aside.
Camille tugged the ear of Sophie to punish her.
A note left in the book of a library changed the life.
I sketched the goldfish of a friend."

Are "arm", "ear", "book", "goldfish" in these sentences all "one thing" in each sentence, instead of "more than one thing", and did Peter took me by just one arm, did Camille tag just one ear of Sophie, and did I sketch just one goldfish of a friend in each sentence?

Thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2


showing possession or something that belongs to someone or is part of someone:

  • "Peter came toward me, took me by the arm and drew me aside."
  • "Camille tugged on Sophie's ear to punish her."

  • "A note left in a library book changed my [their, his, her, your,our] life." [not possessive]

  • "I sketched a friend's goldfish."

Yes, in all those sentences the thing possessed by a person is singular.

However, we don't say library's book here as library book has become a compound noun in English: library book. Library books do belong to libraries.

Also, Sophie's ear is more natural and idiomatic than: the ear of Sophie and this applies to all your examples except library book.

Yes, a singular noun always implies one.

Compare: Camille tugged on Sophie's ears to punish her.

Tug on something. Pulled might be better here.

goldfish can be plural, as Peter pointed out.


In your examples

the arm
the ear
the book

are all singular obviously, however

the goldfish

is ambiguous since the singular and plural of "fish" is "fish".

  • Yes, goldfish could be a bunch of them in a pond. That's is true. But who says ear of Sophie??
    – Lambie
    Oct 2, 2018 at 14:23

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