Are there any languages where there are different plural forms depending on the count?

For example:
1 cook
2 cooks
10 cooks (this would be a different word)

  • 1
    Are you asking whether there are are languages with more than one number marker (like -s for 2, something different like -ses for 3 or more - if this is what you mean: Yes, there are), or whether there are languages where the stem changes depending on number (like 1 cook, 2 cooks, 10 caaks)? Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 0:20
  • 2
    The keyword here is paucal. There have been several questions on Linguistics.SE, since the very beginning of its existence: one, two, and so on. This question is not an exact duplicate of either, but the answers there perfectly solve this question. Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 0:24
  • 1
    For one thing, there are a number of languages with a special "dual form" used for two of something. For another thing, some languages have complicated systems for determining the form of nouns after numerals. Sometimes they are in the genitive case for some numbers, or singular after numbers ending in (the languages equivalent of) "one" (e.g. something like "eighty-and-one man" is used). Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 0:41
  • @lemontree - I was thinking of the former: -s for 2, something different like -ses for 3 or more.
    – B Seven
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 0:55
  • 7
    Honestly, it's right theere in the first paragraph of Grammatical number on Wikipedia: "In many languages, including English, the number categories are singular and plural. Some languages also have a dual, trial, quadral and paucal number or other arrangements."
    – LjL
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 3:16

3 Answers 3



The most common form of this involves having a dual number, used for exactly two things, and a plural number, used for any more than that. You'll find this in older Indo-European languages and modern Inuit and Semitic languages.

  • Arabic: kitaab "book", kitaabayn "[two] books", kutub "[more than two] books"
  • (Biblical) Hebrew: yōm "day", yomayim "[two] days", yāmīm "[more than two] days"
  • (Epic) Greek: anthrōpos "human", anthrōpō "[two] humans", anthrōpoi "[more than two] humans"
  • Inuktitut: matu "door", matuuk "[two] doors", matuit "[more than two] doors"

Some languages also have a trial number, used for three things; the trial only exists in languages that also have a dual, and has never been documented to exist in nouns, only in pronouns.

Others, instead of dual/plural, have a paucal/plural distinction. The paucal is used for "a few" of something, that is, any small number. I'm less familiar with this one, but something similar does exist in Russian, only in the genitive case:

  • 1, 2, 3, 4 kamnja "of stones [few]"
  • 5, 6, 7, etc kamnej "of stones [many]"
  • I was going to ask WHY do some languages have differentl plural forms and then I found this answer. Very educative! To contribute, I would like to add I've seen these paucal/plural distinctions while updating some texts for east-european and slavic countries, as well as russian.
    – BBog
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 7:04

According to the "Grammatical number" Wikipedia article, there are languages with dual and trial numbers, as well as forms that contrast small numbers with big numbers. The article contains a... number of examples.

To talk about what I know, Proto-Indo-European is assumed to have dual inflections, as many of its daugther languages did, and some still do. So, at least a dual number isn't particularly uncommon among languages that have grammatical number in the first place.


This may be a partial answer because I don't remember details, sorry for that.

A Russian noun can have up to 4 numeral endings (including the singular forms). The first is its "original form" and is used only for 1. The second form is used for 2, 3 and 4. The third form is used for 5 to 10. These three forms also apply to (21, 31, 41...) / (22, 23, 33, 44...) / (25, 36, 47, 58, 69 ...). A fourth form exists for 11 to 19.

I have also heard that something similar exists in Polish, but I know nothing about that.

  • Modern Russian has only two grammatical numbers, singular and plural. However, when a noun is combined with a cardinal numeral, the Genitive case may used (instead of Nominative or Accusative) and it takes singular or plural depending on the last word in the numeral. Other cases are not affected, so there are many more endings the nouns can have, but they are not organised as grammatical numbers, it’s just case agreement rules.
    – J-mster
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 8:14
  • Well modern or not .. ask a Russian about his age - and he replies with "x god" for numbers ending in 1, "x goda" for numbers ending 2,3,4 and "x ljet" for numbers 5 .. 10
    – eagle275
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 13:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.