Tag Archives: plurals

Issues in Chinglish: Singular vs Plural

Chinese is a different language than English in that it makes basically no distinction between something that’s in singular form versus one that expresses plurals. Thus, whereas in English we have one form, two forms, in Chinese it’s 一个表格,两个表格 — note that the Chinese for “form” (表格) remains the same!

In actual fact we do have something which closely resembles the plural — the character 们 (men). This is used when more than one item is referred to — so when we address our pals, we often say friends, not friend. Here, we add 们 to indicate we’re addressing more than one person.

However, in Chinese, plurals are added much more sparingly. Therefore, two forms would sound weird to a local in China if we used 两个表格们 — that is, if we added the at the end!

The only bit in English that’s anywhere close to the same are the irregular exceptions — like one fish, many fish and so on. Even here, these are exceptions to the rule.

Hint to Chinese students learning English: Understand that most of the time, you need this thing called plurals in English. At times they’ll be anything other than an S — classic case studies are terminus — termini, vertex — vertices, crisis — crises and chairwoman — chairwomen. The best advice is to read through authentic English texts — and find out the differences for yourselves…

What it should have read: Platforms 2-12