Plural of Things

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171. Plural of Things. The plural form is not confined in Greek (or indeed in any language) to the expression of "plurality" in the strict sense, i. e. to denote a group composed of distinct individuals, but is often used (especially in Homer) of objects which it is more logical to think of in the singular. Many words, too, are used both in the singular and the plural, with little or no difference of meaning.

Notice especially the uses of the plural in the case of

  1. Objects consisting of parts.

    τόξον and τόξα
    bow and arrows

    ὄχος and ὄχεα : ἅρμα and ἅρματα
    a chariot

    δῶμα, μέγαρον
    a hall or room

    δώματα, μέγαρα
    a house

    λέκτρον and λέκτρα
    a bed

    πύλαι a gate is only used in the plural; θύρη is used as well as θύραι, but only of the door of a room (θάλαμος).

  2. Natural objects of undefined extent.
     

    • ψάμαθος and ψάμαθοι
      (as we say sands)
       
    • ἅλες1
      salt
       
    • κονίη and κονίαι
      dust
       
    • πυρός and πυροί
      wheat
       
    • ῥέεθρον and ῥέεθρα
       
    • κῦμα2 and κύματα
       
    • δάκρυ and δάκρυα
       
    • κρέα3
      meat
       
    • σάρκες4
      flesh
       
  3. Parts of the body.

    νῶτον5 and νῶτα

    στῆθος and (more commonly) στήθεα

    πρόσωπον and πρόσωπα
    the cοuntenance

    φρήν and φρένες

  4. Abstract words.

    λελασμένος ἱπποσυνάων
    forgetting horsemanship

    ποδωκείῃσι πεποιθώς
    trusting to speed of foot

    ἀναλκείῃσι δαμέντες
    overcome by want of prowess

    πολυϊδρείῃσι νόοιο
    through cunning of understanding

    So ἀτασθαλίαι, ἀφραδίαι, ἀγηνορίαι, ἀεσιφροσύναι, τεκτοσύναι, μεθημοσύναι, etc.; note also προδοκαί (ambush), προχοαί (mouth of a river), δῶρα (gift)6, κυνῶν μέλπηθρα (the sport of dogs), φυκτά (escaping), ἴσα (fairness; see § 161).

    The plural in such cases is a kind of imperfect abstraction; the particular manifestations of a quality are thought of as units in a group or mass—not yet as forming a single thing.

  5. Collective words.

    μῆλα
    flocks

    So πρόβατα is only plural in Homer (cp. πρόβασις Od. 2.75).

  6. Pronouns and Adjectives.

    See the examples of adverbial uses, §§ 133-134; cp. also § 161.

  • 1. Once ἅλς.
  • 2. In a collective sense.
  • 3. Seldom κρέας.
  • 4. Once singular
  • 5. Or νῶτος; the nominative singular does not occur in Homer.
  • 6. Il. 20.268 χρῦσος γὰρ ἐρύκακε, δῶρα θεοῖο