In another translation from Chinese to English, I met this part -

Seventy-seven head of cattle.

As far as I remember English grammar, head in this case can be used instead of heads only if we say something like

Seventy-one head of cattle.

However, in any other case, we have to use heads, and the correct phrase would be

Seventy-seven heads of cattle.

Am I right?

  • No, you're wrong. There's no difference between your two examples. "Head" is a plural-only noun -- there is no *"x heads of cattle".
    – BillJ
    May 18 '19 at 8:57

Head when used as a unit of count for live animals has singular form ("head"). Thus, if you wish to discuss your herd of cows, you might say "I have seventy-one head of cattle on my farm".

a person or animal when considered as a unit

If you wish to discuss the severed heads of animals, e.g. in a butchery or meat context, you would use the plural form, and might well say "I have sold seventy-one cow heads (or cows' heads) to the dog food company". In the latter situation, a native speaker would be unlikely to speak of "heads of cattle".

the part of the body above the neck where the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and brain are:

Head (Cambridge Dictionary)


Seventy-seven head of cattle.

"Head" is an uninflected plural-only noun, i.e. it is not morphologically marked as a plural. Here the quantificational noun construction avoids the problem that arises with "cattle", where we can use high round numerals like "a thousand cattle", but not low numerals like *"seven cattle".

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