Foreign word's singular & plural

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Mr.X Senior, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. Mr.X Senior Senior Member

    Burmese & English (2nd Language)
    In formal writting, it it necessary to keep foreign word's singular and plural ?


    The datum is not used.
    The data are accurate.

    Today's agendum is ....
    We have many agenda to do.

    The formula is .....
    The formulae are ...

    It is a phenomenon ....
    Phenomena are ...
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2008
  2. Toadie

    Toadie Senior Member

    Very rarely do you hear "datum", "agendum" (Firefox even considers it a misspelling), or "formulae" (same deal there).

    You would, however, need to differentiate between phenomenon and phenomena.
  3. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    "In formal writting, it it necessary to keep foreign word's singular and plural ?"

    I think that if you look into the background of English words and phrases, you will find a high percentage are based on non-English words, and in many instances, the plurals that are used with them are derived completely, or partially, from the language they originated from. The fact that Firefox is in error says more about the people running it than it does about correct usage. Yes we do hear and read "datum line", and not rarely, and most certainly "formulae" is the standard term for more than one formula. I would imagine the use of language, both with regard to vocabulary and usage, surely depends on those using it, the education they have had, the work they do or did, their interest in language, and their sense of accuracy. Slovenliness does not need to be encouraged in any activity, and the usage of words is one of the most important means of communication available to us. Why should we encourage misuse?
  4. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    Excellently put, gasman
    The Firefox spell-check should hardly be taken as the final word on the English language. It depends more so on which dictionary you install, and there are plenty to pick from. Leave alone agendum, it even declares many common English words as wrong.

    As for as the usage of plurals is concerned, might I suggest that in some cases, the plural is generally preferred over the singular and people tend to use it much more often.
    So, although datum exists, data is more common.
    Ditto with agendum and agenda.

    People sometimes do make the mistake of using the plural form and then treating it as singular.

    I am not sure whether it is a regional feature or quite universal.
  5. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    In the US, the standard plural is formulas.

    I think the best advice is not to treat foreign words as a group or expect any kind of consistent treatment of them in English. Each foreign word has its own usage demands. It seems to me that the older and more common a word is, the more likely that is will be treated like a standard English word. The terms are gradually incorporated into the language.
  6. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I'd like to add that I have a great interest in language, a desire for accuracy tempered with a recognition that academic language and daily language are often two different beasts, and a reasonable level of education. That said, I have never encountered "agendum" in any real-life context in my life. I am aware that it exists, but as a person involved in consulting and business for the past twenty-five years I have never encountered "agendum" in any written form.

    I have heard and read both "formulae" and "formulas" and I don't believe that those who use one are correct or guilty of misuse compared to the other. They are used by different people in different circles of life for different purposes, although they describe the same thing. Is "cacti" more correct than "cactuses" (or even "cactus" for the plural)? To a botanist, probably; to the average layman, no.

    The agreement about what is "correct" is not always as black and white as some would wish it to be. I agree with languageGuy. There is not a single, consistent treatment. It is certainly good to know that "agendum" exists as a word, but it is also good to know that it is not a word in vogue in the typical business environment. Which word is correct often has more to do with social context than dictionary definitions.
  7. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    "Which word is correct often has more to do with social context than dictionary definitions."

    I would alter one word in that statement-I would remove correct and replace it with "used".
  8. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Adding a pedantic note:

    The plural of "word" is "words" - no apostrophe.
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Agenda, although originally plural, is always treated as singular.

    Today's agenda is...
    We have a lot of agenda items to get through.
  10. Dr. Baha'i Senior Member

    Athens, GA
    English - U.S.
    I agree with the way this thread is going. One more thing about "agenda": it is so often used in the singular that I have heard someone try to make a spurious plural "agendae." Of course "agenda" is already a plural in Latin (meaning "things to be done").

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