In this picture there are three groups of English plural forms:
enter image description here Some examples from this picture include:

singular - plural singular - plural singular - plural
book - books child - children stratum - strata

What makes such differences in English plural forms of nouns? Why don't they all follow the same pattern?

  • You can read about the middle ones here.
    – J.R.
    Nov 30, 2018 at 12:17
  • English began as a dialect of continental European German which was then a few hundred years later further influenced by a Scandinavian dialect of German and then again a few hundred years later by medieval French and then a few hundred years after that by the use of Latin for academic and scientific subjects. Not to mention borrowings along the way from Celtic languages and in modern English by quite a few other languages. So English is not really "one" language but a commingling of languages.
    – TimR
    Nov 30, 2018 at 12:53
  • Neither English nor the Scandinavian languages were ever "dialects of German". They are all Germanic languages, which means that they began as dialects of an extinct language which also underlies German. Apart from that, I agree.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 30, 2018 at 14:45
  • (The plurals “men” and “women,” by the way, don’t fall into this category. They were formed in Old English by a change of vowel, as is also true of “feet,” “geese,” “teeth,” “mice,” and “lice.”) what does this part mean? What is change of vowel? From u: to i:?
    – Michael
    Dec 1, 2018 at 11:01

1 Answer 1


Many languages have multiple patterns for forming plurals. Just off the top of my head, I can list French, German, Latin, Greek, Russian, Polish, Welsh, Arabic, Swahili. In that respect, there's nothing unusual about English.

For the particular groups you are talking about, (B) is an old Germanic pattern also found in German and Dutch; (A) is another old pattern, which goes back to Indo-European (which is why something like it is also found in Spanish, Portuguese, Old French, and Greek). (C) is another Indo-European pattern found in Latin and Greek (used in English only in words borrowed from those languages) and also in Russian and other Slavonic languages.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .