The Grammarphobia Blog

Naturalized citizens

Q: One quick question: When using a non-English word, should the plural be in the original language or in English? Example: In Italy, you buy one cappuccino or two cappuccini, whereas here it’s one cappuccino or two cappuccinos. What is the correct convention?

A: The proper convention is to use English plurals for foreign words that have been absorbed into our language. How do you tell if a foreign-born word is now a naturalized citizen or still on a green card? Go to the dictionary!

For that frothy Starbucks special, the singular is “cappuccino” and the plural is “cappuccinos,” according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.).

In the “Plurals Before Swine” chapter of my grammar book Woe Is I and in the July 22, 2007, entry on The Grammarphobia Blog, I discuss foreign words that have been Anglicized and those that still have their old plural endings.

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