Allow users to enter singular and plural names into iNat

Platform- Mobile and Website.

At present the lists of names for taxa in different languages, has a mixture of singular and plural words. The inat user and the system doesnt know which words are singular and which are plural.
I have added this at a later stage as a suggestion from a responder .@ddennism
Many south-central African languages have complex plural nouns where the beginning of the plural word is different from the beginning of the singular word . Therefore auto-complete, which functionally resolves this ambiguity in many languages (including English), won’t kick-in and direct the user to the correct form of the noun.

When a name is entered for a taxa the user should be asked to state if the word is singular or plural by ticking an appropiate box.
Inat can then use two columns next to each other for singulars and plurals.

Inat can then check if higher level names for genera and families really are using plural words and species names are using singular words in various languages and highlight where corrections are needed.

In South-central Africa many taxa names may be being documented and written down for the first time and iNat is a great tool for doing this. I think it is important to document both the singular and plural word spellings and distinguish between them. Currently inat doesnt distinguish between singulars and plurals and lumps them all together…

I approved this request for debate/voting but I suspect it would be a lot of work.

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In my experience with English names, species names are singular and superspecific names are plural. I’ve never had any confusion with that, but perhaps because typing in the singular usually has the plural as a suggestion. And the string is close enough for vice versa probably.


I agree, this would be a pretty hard task, something as simple as an octopus becomes octopuses vs octopodes vs octopi (doesn’t really matter which is the correct term because people will use all of them). This then must apply to basically every species of octopus, and then so on to other clades with these issues.
This feature would be a great quality-of-life improvement to the site, but as has been stated, I can’t imagine it would be quick or easy, especially with the current method of adding regional dialect/common names.


@botswanabugs - You may want to edit your feature request to add this important context, which I’ve picked up from reading your other forum posts:
Some south-central African languages have complex plural nouns where the beginning of the plural word is different from the beginning of the singular word. Therefore auto-complete, which functionally resolves this ambiguity in many languages (including English), won’t kick-in and direct the user to the correct form of the noun.
Please let me know if this is inaccurate or irrelevant.


I have constantly had to try both singular and plural to hit what I want, what I KNOW is here as a common name. Whether I need to ask for singular or plural seems without any logic I have tripped over.

There is no ‘zebra’ on iNat - but I have learnt to go straight to Equus (Yes - I know it is not a striped horse, but there are a few species) Many zebra striped other, but the horsy one has to be zebras.

For the common names to serve its useful purpose. iNatter looks for the name they know and use - and should find it. Singular and plural should be searchable. So long as all the reasonable options are in iNat and searchable. This is especially for people who are new to iNat and battling to find their way around thru all the options every which way you look!

@botswanabugs is it adequate to your purpose if singular and plural are at least listed and searchable?


Isn’t it easier to make it so that languages that have a different prefix depending on whether they’re singular or plural ignore the prefix? I know Tswana (as spoken in Botswana) only has a dozen or so prefixes.

Alternatively, iNat can just approve of both singular and plural common names to be able to ID something in languages where that’s required.

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I think the primary common name should be singular for a species and plural for a group of species (genus, family, etc.) but you can put in plural and singular versions as additional common names. So that if you search for either singular or plural you will get the result you want. It would be a lot of work to add all those in but you (@botswanabugs) can do that yourself. You don’t have to be a curator.


This is very relevant. For instance, the Southern Ground Hornbill here in southern Africa in Oshiwambo (the same language structure as Tswana) is Epumputu. However, since they often travel in groups, it’s more common to hear the plural Omapumputu. One might say to just use the root word, but typing in “pumputu” does not return anything useful. When the search mechanism uses the front of the word, it really limits usability in southern African languages.


Wait… why don’t any of the 3 possible ‘zebra’ species come up as options when you type ‘zebra’, even in the search bar? Its all moths, spiders, and 1 bird, plus genus Equus. For ‘deer’ the first option is the family, then various subfamilies, tribes, and genera, then ‘white-tailed deer’, ‘mule deer’, ‘horse and deer flies’, so clearly the search is capable of finding the search term embedded in a phrase


I think it is not only adding singular and plural common names for a taxon, but also to know if the name is singular or plural. But this linguistic problem, I do not think iNaturalist should support the second feature.

and then we get taken by surprise when we get some mis-click Random species which we could never have chosen. Haven’t even heard of that!

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It looks like it is most of these are because they literally have ‘zebra’ by itself listed as a common name. Is anyone seriously search for a fish with default common name ‘Horned Bream’ as ‘zebra’, by itself, without some qualification like ‘zebra bream’ (which is also listed as a common name)?

I suppose we could just add ‘zebra’ as a common name for all the zebras, though that would seem a little un-ideal. We could also create subgenus ‘zebras’ which probably then could get precedence in searches for ‘zebra’.

I defer to zoologists to sort that out.

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We’re steering a bit off-topic, but:

I had children search for the English equivalent of ‘long beetle’ on Google to identify a beetle on our nature school square. They did visually ID it correctly. I doubt searching for that in iNat would have resulted in the same success. I will try it out!

We also have fish in the aquarium that have a zebra-like pattern. Naturally, the children call these zebra fish.

People will describe and search species using many different queries and descriptions. We can’t fit them all into iNat.

Thank you @ddennism. I have added your statement to my initial request.
I think all Bantu languages have changes made at the start of the word. I cannot comment at all on the many San languages. I know nothing about them.
I wonder if the same applies to other language groups on different continents.

@dianastuder I understand that for group words like order, family, tribe, genus the plural word should be used. For a species, a singular word should be used. Some inaturalists are assigning singulars to families and plurals to species since they don’t know how to differentiate between them. I’m sorting out this problem for just one small group of African languages in one country and making corrections.


Perhaps you can write a journal post that you can refer people to. About the problems you are resolving.


@dianastuder @wildskyflower @optilete @Jacob There seems to be a similar problem even in English. If I search for mouse I get a variety of plants, a couple of hawks and a mouse opposum. Inat responds well to mice.I have to know the plural word mice to find a mouse. Perhaps this is OK for those who speak English as a first language but may cause problems for learners of English, Or try louse amd goose.

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Try searching for a mouse ( as of 19 July 23). It is unlikely you will find a mammal !