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I'm reading LLPSI, chapter 20 "Parentes" (skipping ahead quite a few chapters, just for a peek and to see how much I can understand from a more advanced chapter).

The third sentence reads:

Cūnae sunt lectulus īnfantis.

Why is lectulus (and the attached genitive īnfantis) in the singular, in apparent number mismatch with cūnae sunt?

Is it because lectulus īnfantis represents some single, abstract "concept of little bed" that all cribs are? Should it be transltaed into English as "Cribs are an infant's bed", in a similar vibe as "dogs are a man's best friend"?

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It is because cunae, -arum, f, is the word for a single crib. The singular cuna is never used. This is similar to how castra is a single camp. Such a word is called a plurale tantum (plural: pluralia tantum).

(English also has a few of these, like scissors, glasses or trousers.)

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  • 5
    I see. So it's like saying "Scissors are a tool (singular)" or "Trousers are a garment (singular)" in English. Jun 8, 2023 at 13:16
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    @NicolasMiari Yep!
    – Draconis
    Jun 8, 2023 at 15:38
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    You should mention like glasses (for the optic instrument). Otherwise, it is quite confusing as one could very well have a single glass of water.
    – Jeffrey
    Jun 9, 2023 at 1:21
  • Oddly enough, Spanish uses cuna (in the singular) to refer to a single crib; I guess that's what threw me off. Jun 16, 2023 at 4:58

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