How many sheep are in your garden?

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veracity

Senior Member
Hi Foreros,

There are five sheep only there. You know five sheep are better than one sheep.

No plural of sheep. If the sentences above do not sound natural to you how could you rephrase them in connection with singular - plural?

Thank you.
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Sheep does have a plural. However, the plural of sheep is also sheep; it is identical in appearance to the singular. There are other words for animals that also follow this pattern:

    A deer is in the garden.
    Many deer are in the garden.
     

    veracity

    Senior Member
    I was musing on whether this sameness bother you and you natives try to avoid using these forms by applying some different terms or phrases. It seems that this is not a problem for you.
    If all the nouns had the same forms for plural an singular would it make the language difficult to understand?

    child - child (not children)
    woman - woman (not women)

    Just two sample(s). For me it would be a blessing!

    Take care.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Hi Veracity. You're right - the singular and plural forms being different can be bothersome when learning the language (especially when, as with "sheep", there is no difference in the form of the word). Unfortunately, there is really no logic to it and memorization is your only recourse. As for your sentences, here's how I would say them:

    "There are only five sheep there. Five sheep are better than one, you know."
     

    veracity

    Senior Member
    I know "news" is completely different. But when you want to say "two news" you say "two pieces of news". I thought that for "five ship" you might have devised something like "five pieces of sheep". I don't want to apply pinpricks just to give explanation why I asked such stupidity.
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    It is a very interesting question, actually; I had never even thought about it.
    The funny thing, Veracity, is that we don't hear anything strange about it. We are so used to hearing 'one sheep' or 'two sheep' that we don't even notice - and certainly would never find it necessary (or even desirable) to find different ways to say such a sentence.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I know "news" is completely different. But when you want to say "two news" you say "two pieces of news". I thought that for "five ship" you might have devised something like "five pieces of sheep". I don't want to apply pinpricks just to give explanation why I asked such stupidity.
    Do we say five head of sheep the way we say five head of cattle?

    Some languages (don't ask me to name any: it's late) make no distinction at all between singular and plural in nouns: it's all done by context, verbs, or simply numbers or plural 'markers'.
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    We say five head of sheep if we're farmers, otherwise not very often. Like 'head of cattle' it refers to the quantity of stock that one has, rather than to five individual animals.
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    I've heard of 'counting noses' to see if everyone is there, but never in connection with horses.
    And yes, it is strange - almost as if there were five sheep and only one head :D
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I see that not "heads of sheep". Strange to me.
    Stranger even than that, Veracity. It's not five heads of sheep but five head of sheep : number + singular noun + of + (what looks like another) singular noun ... to mean 'five animals'!
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    I see it. I think it comes from the time when horse dealers were as common as car dealers are today - and is clearly the origin of the expression I mentioned. You won't hear it used nowadays. And I'm afraid I have no idea how they expressed it.
     

    Trinibeens

    Senior Member
    NYC
    U.S. English
    I know "news" is completely different. But when you want to say "two news" you say "two pieces of news". I thought that for "five ship" you might have devised something like "five pieces of sheep". I don't want to apply pinpricks just to give explanation why I asked such stupidity.
    Not stupidity at all. Actually farmers and livestock breeders, who deal with large herds of animals and regard them as a business do apply something similar to "pieces", but it's "head".

    For example, "I'm grazing 500 head of cattle in the north field," or "I'm bringing 300 head of sheep to market tomorrow."

    But "head" is usually only used in the context of large herds, and usually only by people who engage in livestock as a business. You wouldn't hear it in normal conversations.

    And just to make it more difficult, "head" doesn't apply to all animals--you wouldn't say "I have 500 head of chicken." :(

    (Gee, what a mess we have made of the English language) :eek:
     
    Actually, cattle behaves just like sheep - but even weirder. You can say they brought the cattle, meaning an unspecified but larger than 1 number of them; but you can also say the lorry cam today and collected 30 cattle. At least the farmers round here say such things. There is no singular use, though: you have to be more specific and say cow, bull, heifer etc.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I'm so glad you asked about sheep. The plural and singular forms use the same word.
    Had the thread topic been fishes (npl) and fish (npl) and fish (n), we would have had an entire school of confusion. :)
     
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