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'Five books' is a piece of idea. From the word 'five' we know it means more than one book. The question is why we put an extra 's' to denote it is a plural? If we don't put this 's', shall somebody mistake what we mean to say? This is another example of double expressing. Of course the following question would be why and when shall we double express and why and when we express the same idea one time or three times. For five books, it is easy to get an integer number. Yet, if we want to express something in fraction, it would be a nuisance. 1.23 pies comparing 0.23 pie, are they two different things? Something like 1.0000001 dollars, we put 's', while 0.99999 dollar we don't. Beside this, we have to know the different among 1.0001 percent, 0.999 percent, 101 percent, 99 percent etc. There is no logical reason but just rote. Sometimes, a number we can't see it directly such as log7.8+sin46/tg7=? Voltage(s). In other case, a question itself is about whether a certain value is greater than one or not. If a teacher ask students, that A/B apple(s) is (are) greater than one apple or not, it would be very hard for the use to put 's' or not. For either put or not will tell the answer too. As for the negative number, there is some thing more to learn. In positive number we know that the number greater than one, we put 's' as plural, while for the negative number, we put 's' after the number less than -1 and when it greater than -1 we won't. That means to say, when the absolute value smaller than one, we don't put 's' and when the absolute value greater than one we put. Do you think we can explain this to a toddler? If not then, what we tell them is an unstable knowledge and no one can remember an unstable knowledge as well as a stable knowledge. All these troubles are from the ancient usage of 's'.
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I got your point. Fair enough. However, the plural ending 's' is not COMPLETELY redundant in modern English. In some contexts it is really the only element indicative of number. Consider some nouns which have irregular plural forms:

I like the sheep you painted yesterday (1 sheep? 2 sheep?)

If (when?!) the plural ending disappears in all nouns, we will have much more examples like this.
I doubt the plural ending -s will vanish at all, I'd rather say it'll become more common, also for words that have no special plural form by now, like e.g. "sheep".
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>>>>> All these troubles are from the ancient usage of 's'.

The '-s' is not ancient.
The -s actually is a simplification of forming the plural.

English, as most Germanic languages, used to form plurals differently - rests of these old forms are still kept in:

sheep - sheep (no special plural ending)

ox - oxen (weak plural by adding -en)

man - men
woman - women
mouse - mice
goose - geese
tooth - teeth
foot - feet (all Umlaut-plurals)

brother - brethren (two plural marks by adding the weak ending -en + Umlaut)

child - children (three plural marks by adding the strong plural-ending -ir and the weak plural-ending -en + Umlaut)

The plural -s came over from the Romance languages and replaced the former ways of building the plural. You could say that the -s did a good job on simplifying the English plural system.
I do not claim that the plural ending 's' will definitely disappear. However, looking at the direction the English language is heading, the disappearance would come as no surprise.

Over approximately 1500 years, the mammoth set of inflections of the Old English has virtually been discarded leaving only 's' (plural nouns, 3rd person singular verbs, and saxon genitive) in modern English. English has become a rather analytic lg, where most of the syntactic relations within a sentence are expressed by means of word order.

In the colloquial English, quite often you can hear the speakers drop the 's' ending. Sentences like the ones below are not uncommon:
He like music
He don't know it
How much is it? -It's 5 pound.
It's 2 metre long.

I am not a native speaker of English, and whenever I hear one of my friends (ENS) saying something like that I ask them why. The most common answer: out of laziness.

Every language reflects the needs of its speakers. Prescriptivists may take pains to control a language. In most cases they are almost sure to fail. It is the speakers of a language that unconsciously influence the language's shape. Over the last 15 hundred years, as far as the inflectional system is concerned, the native speakers of English have displayed a clear tendency to simplify things.

What is going to happen next?

>I like the sheep you painted yesterday (1 sheep? 2 sheep?)
I think it is better:
I like sheep you painted yesterday (for plural)
I like the sheep you painted yesterday (for single)
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>man - men
>The plural -s came over from the Romance languages and replaced the former ways of building the plural. You could say that the -s did a good job on simplifying the English plural system.
I think the irregular plural can save one 'phonetic pattern' comparing with the regular plural. You may repeat several time of 'mans', 'womans' and 'gooses' etc. to find it take longer time then 'men', 'women' and 'geese'. So it is stil an example for memory exchange speed. We spend time to remeber them in order to get faster speed.
>I do not claim that the plural ending 's' will definitely disappear. However, looking at the direction the English language is heading, the disappearance would come as no surprise.

>Over approximately 1500 years, the mammoth set of inflections of the Old English has virtually been discarded leaving only 's' (plural nouns, 3rd person singular verbs, and saxon genitive) in modern English. English has become a rather analytic lg, where most of the syntactic relations within a sentence are expressed by means of word order.

I agree with you. In scientific writing material 'kg', 'sec' etc, didn't put on 's'. People seemed like analytic word than synthetic word. They like 'more common' than 'commoner', 'most pleasant' than 'pleasantest' etc.
Dear Su Cheng Zhong,
Though you are quite right in some of your arguments, there are some comments I'd like to add. First of all, "I like sheep you painted yesterday" grammatically is not correct, as you know, it needs a definite article. SEcondly, you do not need to teach this complex irregular forms to a toddler, he'll hear them and grab them without your interference. And finally, if you say "five book", everyone undersatnds, and also concludes that you are from a language community that the plural form is not used in this context!
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