Simple singular/plural string templating in vanilla JavaScript

Joschua Schneider

# views3 min read20. Mar, 2020

When displaying text including numbers, formatting them in the correct grammar can be a little bit messy or can lead to a lot of duplication.

This is a small higher-order-function I wrote to create a tagged-literal string formatter that switches the output between singular and plural depending on the passed number value.

The template format is very simple and easily customizable.

Lets start with the code:

export function formatPlural(count, delimiter = '|') {
  return (strings, ...values) => {
    // Use plural for count !== 1 (0 uses plural -> "Showing 0 results" vs "Showing 0 result")
    const isPlural = count !== 1
    const resolveValue = (value) => {
      if (!value) return ''
      if (typeof value === 'function') return value(isPlural, count)
      return value

    const resultString = strings.reduce(
      (result, current, index) =>

    return resultString.replace(/\{(.*?)\}/g, (_, submatch1) => {
      if (submatch1 === 'count') return count

      const [singular, plural] = submatch1.split(delimiter)
      return isPlural ? plural : singular

Lets use this function to create our formatter based on a number value.

const searchResults = 5

  formatPlural(searchResults)`Your search returned {count} result{|s}!`
// Output: Your search returned 5 results!

The syntax of the template string is quite simple. {count} gets replaced with the value passed to formatPlural.

To switch output of parts of the string for singular/plural, you wite {singular string|plural string}. This gets resolved to either singular string or plural string accordingly.

You can omit either side of the | (delimiter) as a shortcut to target either only singular or plural: {|plural here!}

React example

We can create our formatter in our component (e.g. based on some sate or prop) and use it where we want.

function SearchResults({ results, searchTerm }) {
  const formatSearchResults = formatPlural(results.length)

  return (
      {formatSearchResults`There {were|was} {count} result{|s} for your search "${searchTerm}"`}

Advanced usage

Thanks to the returned tagged-litteral-function, you can pass functions into the template string.

This could be useful for more advanced usecases. The function gets passed isPlural and the current count and should return a string.

The string returned from this function will also be treated and transformed as part of the template.

const randomNumber = 5

const formattingFunction = (isPlural, count) =>
  count === randomNumber ? 'you received {it|them}!' : 'you missed {it|them}!'

formatPlural(5)`Your item{|s} {was|were} shipped... ${formattingFunction}`
// Output singular: Your item was shipped... you received it!
// Output plural: Your items were shipped... you received them!

You can also customize the delimiter used inside the curly braces, just pass a custom one as a second parameter: formatPlural(count, delimiter)