The Neuter Plural

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172. Neuter Plural. The construction of the neuter plural with a singular verb is the commoner one in Homer, in the proportion of about three to one. When the plural is used, it will generally be found that the word is really plural in meaning (i. e. that it calls up the notion of distinct units). Thus it is used with

Nouns denoting agents: as ἔθνεα applied to the men of the Greek army (Il. 2.91, 464), to birds (Il. 2.459). to swine (Od. 14.73); so with φῦλʼ ἀνθρώπων (Od. 15.409).

Distinctly plural parts of the body: πτερά, χείλεα, οὔατα, μέλεα; so πέδιλα (of the shoes of Hermes).

Numerals: δέκα στόματα (Il. 2.489), οὔατα τέσσαρα (Il. 11.634), τέσσαρα δέρματα (Od. 4.437), αἰπόλια ἕνδεκα πάντα (Od. 14.103); so with πάντα and πολλά (Il. 11.574, 15.714, 17.760; Od. 4.437, 794, 9.222, 12.411), and when the context shows that distinct things are meant.

Il. 5.656 τῶν μὲν δούρατα (the spears of twο warriors)

Il. 13.135 ἔγχεα . . . ἀπὸ χειρῶν

A few instances occur in fixed phrases, which may represent an earlier syntax; λύντο δὲ γυῖα (but also λύτο γούνατα), ἀμήχανα ἔργα γένοντο, etc. Note especially the lines ending with πέλονται (τά τε πτερὰ νηυσὶ πέλονται, ὅτε τʼ ἤματα μακρὰ πέλονται, φυκτὰ πέλονται, etc.).

The exceptions to the use of the singular are fewest with pronouns and adjectives, doubtless on account of their want of a distinct plural meaning (see the end of last section).

Suggested Citation

D.B. Monro, A Grammar of the Homeric Dialect. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7. https://dcc.dickinson.edu/index.php/grammar/monro/neuter-plural