Funny plurals

This week I started thinking about the oddness of plurals in the English language. Plurals in our language can be very strange.

For example, the plural of the word “fruit” is (sort of) “fruit”. You can say “I’m getting a banana, or I’m getting two bananas.” But if you don’t say what kind of fruit you are getting, you would say “I’m getting fruit.” In that sentence, the word “fruit” might mean just a single banana or a whole bunch of bananas. There’s no way to know.

Yet if the word “fruit” is used to refer to a particular kind of fruit, and then there is indeed a clear plural form. If you say “I am getting fruits”, that means you are getting more than one kind of fruit. So there is a distinct plural for kinds of fruit, but not for the thing itself.

Then there are words for which the singular and the plural are exactly the same, like deer or fish. The latter is even more confusing, because it’s also a verb. You can say “Whenever I fish, I hope for lots of fish, but I only catch one fish.”

It’s amazing that little kids learn this stuff with so little trouble. Just one more thing that helps me to appreciate the wonder of the human brain.

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