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Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

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jeffgordon
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Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby jeffgordon » Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:45 am

Whilst talking about Kruger to a non-South African friend the other day, she asked me why I keep referring to the animals in singular rather than plural form.

For example, I was saying something like, "So in Kruger you'd probably see elephant, giraffe, rhino, buffalo, lion" and I genuinely think she thought she was going to see only one of each! I had never thought about it before - it was just something I have always said and never stopped to think how it may sound to the ears of someone who's never been "on safari" (goodness, how the Europeans love that term!).

Does anyone know why we refer to animals in the singular rather than plural form? And is it the same in Afrikaans or any other languages?
Last edited by jeffgordon on Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Micetta » Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:18 am

If you talk about the animal as a whole e.g. The elephant is a vegetarian, you use singolar. If you say I saw two elephants eating a tree then plural.

Very often the singular is used mistakenly on this forum, especially in the TRs. We saw lots of impala is wrong. We saw lots of impalas is right and so on.

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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Elsa » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:31 pm

Yes, quite an interesting question?

If I think I say, "We saw lots of Giraffe in Kruger" but then I might say
"we saw 2 giraffes eating from that tree" which doesn't sound quite right somehow?

If I can quote from a Reader's Digest book I have titled The Right Word at the Right Time..... A guide to the English language and how to use it.

There is a section on Plurals in Animals and People and it says..
When several animals are under discussion, they can be thought of in one of two ways; either collectively, as an undifferentiated group, or individually. The 'collective' plural of the names of animals or people often keeps the same form as the singular. With animals names, there are several categories.
First, some animal names cannot take an -s when pluralising, and simply retain the singular form.
When individual animals are referred to, either the regular or the irregular plural may be used: eg Four Buck or Bucks.
When different types of animal are referred to, there is a stronger tendency to use the regular plural:
There are those animal names that typically take an -s plural, but that occasionally take a zero-plural when considered collectively, as by scientists or game rangers.
Compare, "Tigers still inhabit the surrounding forests" and then "There is evidence that Tiger still inhabit the surrounding forests"
Notice that the singular as well as the zero-plural is possible in such contexts.
Perhaps the majority of undomesticated animals follow this pattern


So from what I read of this complicated analogy of the English language it seems we can use either, the plural or without!
Both are correct. 8)
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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Micetta » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:45 pm

Elsa, that is not what I was taught at school :lol: but as this was when Noah was born.... :whistle:

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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Elsa » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:47 pm

Well, tell me who your teacher was and I will send her a copy of the reference I have! 8) :lol:
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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Micetta » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:49 pm

Probably returned to dust already some time ago :wink:

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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Elsa » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:52 pm

Ooops, then that will be difficult, but then maybe my brain or the way I have interpreted it has turned to dust, a distinct possibility! :whistle:

Maybe we should leave it up to the old song, "I say Potato and you say potato, I say Tomato and you say Tomato" with the various accents!
Last edited by Elsa on Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Micetta » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:56 pm

The languages are moving so fast these days, that what was law 40/50 years ago has been completely changed. To me it happens very often reading a danish news paper that there are words that I simply do not know the meaning of :doh:

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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Richprins » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:43 pm

English is well known as a "bastard" language, to excuse the term... :redface:

There are so many exceptions to rules that change so often, and there have been so many influences from other languages and cultures over the centuries, that it is difficult to be harsh on other than simple grammar and spelling errors...

Which comes with the territory, one would suppose, for the world's most widespread and important language! :thumbs_up:

Elsa is correct that both singular and plural are acceptable, but not for domestic animals! :twisted:

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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Imberbe » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:48 pm

Luckily I haven't seen any sheeps in Kruger! :whistle:
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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby weesy » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:56 pm

But then again u see sheep in the padddocks with cows...great topic :clap: :clap:

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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Jungle Junkie » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:26 pm

Mgulube wrote:I think it's just plain rude (and showing off) to mention something like : "I saw 10 leopards" It is much more appreciated mentioning someting like " I saw a leopard".


or.. I saw a leopard 10 times :tongue:
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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Elsa » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:49 pm

Jungle Junkie wrote:or.. I saw a leopard 10 times :tongue:
Either way, that is just plain mean! 8) :whistle:
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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby gmlsmit » Tue Sep 07, 2010 9:14 pm

To me; when mentioning a species the singular eg Lion or Elephant or Rhinoceros should be used.

When referring to a single animal the above should apply.

When referring to more than one then the plural eg Lions, Elephants or whatever should be used.

However this is not a linguistic training centre, if you are in doubt, use as you prefer, the readers will understand very clearly what is meant.

Enjoy KRUGER, only nine more days for me and we hopefully will be listening to the Woodland Kingfishers and the Guinea Fowl and the Francolin.

Hopefully we will see many Sable, Roan, Kudu, Elephant, Buffalo, and some Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Steenbokkies and of all the others. :D
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Re: Giraffe OR Giraffes? Lion OR Lions? Singular vs Plural...

Unread postby Richprins » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:29 pm

Rooies wrote:Those of you who are complaining about the correct use of English on this forum, are actually scaring away those folks who are not fully conversant with the English language, and are afraid to post something, because they are afraid that the purists may frown on them.



Interesting point, Rooies, and I suppose I am one of the culprits! I don't agree that a significant number of potential posters are subject to this fear, though, and I suspect it's just us old farts/perfectionists who really give a damn! :lol:


On the other hand, SOME semblance of readability is surely necessary! (I can go and find some SA posts that are virtually incomprehensible, (NOT overseas ones!), so maybe it's ok until spell-check is brought back?


Wouldn't worry too much! :thumbs_up:

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