All About Plural Nouns


Let's look at the basics for forming and spelling plural nouns, which can be tricky. There are many exceptions, however there are several tips and tricks that will really help you. Before we get started, let's quickly review both singular and plural nouns:

Singular nouns name one (single) person, place, thing, animal or idea.

  • Examples:  apple, culture, finger, cat, bed

Plural nouns name more than one person, place thing, animal or idea.

  • Examples:  apples, cultures, fingers, cats, beds

(By the way, for an overview of all the different types of nouns, click here).

Regular Plural Nouns

Normally, the plural of a noun is formed by adding -s:

Singular ( = 1)

dog

a month

one plant

my face

this cake

Plural ( >1)

dogs

three months

several plants

their faces

these cakes

Other Ways to Form Plural Nouns

Although we add -s to change most singular nouns to plural nouns, there are many nouns that have a different ending in the plural. 

I know what your thinking...aaarrghh! The reason many of these have spelling changes is to make them easier to pronounce. For example, if the plural of "bus" were "buss" it would either sound strange or we'd have the same sound. "Buses" is much easier to pronounce.

Luckily, there are a few simple tips and tricks (otherwise known as rules) that will help you:

Rule 1:  Add -es Ending for words ending with -s, -x, -sh, -ch, -ss

Look at the end of the word and if it ends in the letters above, you add an -es.

For example: 

  • words ending in -s:    gas — gases, bus — buses, lens — lenses 
  • words ending in -x:     box — boxes, reflex — reflexes, hoax — hoaxes, tax — taxes
  • words ending in -sh:   brush — brushes , wish — wishes, clash — clashes
  • words ending in -ch:  lunch — lunches , watch — watches, punch — punches
  • words ending in -ss:   boss — bosses , kiss — kisses, business — businesses

Rule 2:  Change -y to -i and add -es

If a noun ends with a consonant plus a -y, then change the -y to an -i and add -es.

* Did you remember there are 21 consonant letters in the English written alphabet: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z.]

For example:

  • blueberry — blueberries  [to be clear:  blueberry ends with an 'r' (a consonant) and a 'y']
  • party — parties
  • lady — ladies
  • candy — candies

* Be sure to understand that you need a consonant plus a -y at the end of the word. You need both otherwise if the word ends in just a -y it will be regular. [e.g., boy — boys (not  boies)]

Rule 3:  Change nouns ending in -f or -fe to -ves

If a noun ends with either -f or -fe, change these letters to a -v and add -es.

Examples: 

  • elf — elves
  • self — selves
  • knife — knives
  • loaf  — loaves
  • wolf — wolves

*Note:  Unfortunately, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Sorry, you'll have to memorize them (see some examples below under irregular plural nouns).

Example:  roof — roofs (not  rooves)

The chart below can help you remember these few rules.

Irregular Plural Nouns

Some nouns just don't follow any of the rules above when changing from singular to plural. I know, bummer. You'll have to memorize these or consult your good friend, Miss Dictionary, if you're unsure.

Nouns ending in -f that don't change to the -ves ending

For example:

Singular

belief

chief

brief

cliff

cuff

roof

proof

puff

Plural

beliefs

chiefs

briefs

cliffs

cuffs

roofs

proofs

puffs

Nouns that are the same in both singular and plural

Singular

Plural

deer

sheep

moose

series

scissors

bison

deer

sheep

moose

series

scissors

bison

Some nouns that end in -o add -es

Some nouns that end in -o add an -es. You'll have to check your dictionary to be sure of the spelling.

Examples:

  • tomato — tomatoes
  • potato — potatoes
  • hero — heroes

*Remember you normally just add an -s (e.g., euro — euros, video — videos)

Some nouns completely change their spelling

 Look carefully at these as sometimes there is only one letter that's different (e.g., man, men). The reason that some of these nouns completely change their spelling is that some of these words are borrowed from Latin or Greek.

Here are some examples:

Singular

Plural

man

woman

person

child

foot

tooth

mouse

louse

ox

cactus

syllabus

alumnus

stimulus

hypothesis

parenthesis

synopsis

thesis

appendix

axis

analysis

basis

crisis

diagnosis

men

women

people

children

foot

teeth

mice

lice

oxen

cacti

syllabi

alumni

stimuli

hypotheses

parentheses

synopses

theses

appendices

axes

analyses

bases

crises

diagnoses

Some nouns have two plural forms

For some nouns, there are two different plural forms. For example:

Singular

Plural

fish

shrimp

quail

trout

mango

buffalo

mosquito

tornado

scarf

hoof

fish or fishes

shrimp or shrimps

quail or quails

trout or trouts

mangos or mangoes

buffalo or buffaloes

mosquitos or mosquitoes

tornado or tornadoes

scarf or scarves

hoof or hooves

Some nouns are always used in the plural

We use the following always in the plural form. Many of these things are a single item that has two connected parts. For example, clothing items that cover the bottom and have two parts for each leg (e.g. pants, shorts, pantyhose). Also, some tools that have two blades or parts are plural.

Clothes:  pants, trousers, jeans, leggings, shorts, tights, pantyhose, stockings, pajamas

For the eyes:  glasses, goggles, binoculars, sunglasses

tools:  scissors, tweezers, pliers, tongs

possessions / ownership:  riches, belongings, earnings, valuables

Note:  We often say a "pair of" : pair of jeans / a pair of pants / a pair of glasses / a pair of scissors

  • I need to buy a new pair of sunglasses.
  • I need to buy some sunglasses (not  I need to buy a sunglasses).

Final Note:  Possessives versus Plural Nouns

Finally, be careful not to confuse plural nouns with possessive nouns.

For example:

  • There are two trees in the yard. (two trees = plural of tree).
  • The oak tree's leaves are falling to the ground. (possessive: the leaves belonging to this tree are falling).
  • Both trees' branches are very long. (both trees possess long branches).

Remember that the possessive uses an apostrophe + -s after the noun. Plural nouns do not  use an apostrophe.


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