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
- Objects consisting of parts.
τόξον and τόξα
bow and arrows
ὄχος and ὄχεα : ἅρμα and ἅρματα
a hall or room
λέκτρον and λέκτρα
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).
- Natural objects of undefined extent.
- Parts of the body.
στῆθος and (more commonly) στήθεα
πρόσωπον and πρόσωπα
φρήν and φρένες
- Abstract words.
trusting to speed of foot
overcome by want of prowess
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.
- Collective words.
So πρόβατα is only plural in Homer (cp. πρόβασις Od. 2.75).
- Pronouns and Adjectives.