plu·ral (plrl) KEY
Middle English plurel, from Old French, from Latin plrlis, from pls, plr-, more; see pel-1 in Indo-European roots
Our Living Language In English, plurals of nouns are normally indicated by the ending -s or -es, or in a few cases by -en, as in children and oxen. Some vernacular varieties of English do not use plural endings in measurement phrases such as three mile and ten pound. This zero plural has a long history and was not formerly as socially stigmatized as it is today. It appears in literary works dating from the Middle English period to the present day, including works of dialect writers, such as this example from Mark Twain's Huck Finn: "The nearest white settlement warnt nearer nor four mile."·In adjectival constructions even Standard English has no -s plural: a five-pound box of candy is acceptable, whereas a five-pounds box is not. These adjective phrases derive from an -a suffix in Old English that marked plural adjectives. This ending has long since fallen away, leaving behind the unmarked root forms.·The absence of -s in the plural form of animal names (hunting for bear, a herd of buffalo) probably arose by analogy with animals like deer and sheep whose plurals have been unmarked since the earliest beginnings of the English language. A few dialects of English have unmarked plurals that may extend beyond the class of measure nouns. For example, some speakers of African American Vernacular English occasionally use such constructions as I have three sister. See Notes at comparative, foot, redundancy.