Learn English – Why is “zero” followed by a plural noun


I could have:

  • Two books
  • One book
  • Zero books

Why is zero followed by a plural form?

I don't expect English to always make sense, but everything has a reason, even if the reason is stupid.
The definitions of "singular" and "plural" per Merriam-Webster:

  • Singular (adj): of, relating to, or being a word form denoting one person, thing, or instance

  • Plural (adj): of, relating to, or constituting a class of grammatical forms usually used to denote more than one or in some languages more than two

So by this logic, our choices are "one" or "more than one". Maybe it's a bug 🙂

Best Answer

Substitute the word "any" in the place of zero and it makes sense. Instead of saying "I have zero books." you are saying "I do not have any books."

In this construction, the plural is not referring to the zero-quantity of books you have, but instead refers to a (vague and undefined) collection of books, none of which you have.