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When creating a piece of writing, there are many rules to follow to ensure your spelling and grammar remain correct. Spellings can provide lots of places for us to trip up - especially when it comes to plurals. Not to worry, though! In this article, we'll have a look at different aspects of plurals, including:
The meaning of plural
Types of plurals
Regular plural nouns
Irregular plural nouns
The rules for regular and irregular plural nouns
Examples of plurals
Before we begin discussing plurals, let's make sure we know what plural means.
If something is plural, it means there is more than one of it. Only nouns, pronouns, or determiners can be either singular or plural.
Nouns are initially considered in their singular form and are modified to become plurals. This process is referred to as pluralization. The pluralization process most commonly involves adding suffixes (e.g., -s); however, the process can differ between different types of nouns.
Pronouns and determiners each have their own sets of words that denote pluralization:
Pronouns = we, you, and they
Determiners = these and those
In this article, we will focus on the plural forms of nouns.
Now we have a good idea of the meaning of the term plural, let's refresh ourselves with what a noun is.
A noun is a part of speech used to name a person, place, object, or concept.
Here are some examples of singular and plural nouns. Familiarize yourself with these before we go on to discuss them in more detail.
You might notice that some of these words have been pluralized in different ways. This is because they are different types of plural nouns (e.g., regular, irregular, or zero) and therefore follow different rules to create plural forms.
Fish or Fishes?
People often get confused with the plural form of fish, but the rule is quite simple.
When there are multiple fish of the same breed, the plural is fish.
When there are multiple different breeds of fish, the plural is fishes.
So, what are the different types of plural nouns?
There are three types of plural nouns:
Regular plural nouns
Irregular plural nouns
Zero plural nouns (nouns that don't change when pluralized)
We'll now discuss each of these in turn.
Regular plural nouns are nouns in which we add the affix '-s' to the end of the singular form to create the plural.
An inflectional affix is a letter or group of letters added to a root word to show a grammatical change. When a word undergoes an inflectional change, the core meaning of the word stays the same.
Inflections can show a change in:
Some examples of regular plural nouns are shown below:
Irregular plural nouns are nouns that don't follow the regular rule of adding an '-s'. There are many different rules for creating irregular plurals, each depending on what letters the singular word ends in. Let's look at some of the most important rules now.
Most of the rules for irregular plural nouns depend on the ending letters of the noun. For example, a word ending with 'ch' follows a different rule than a word ending with 'f'.
These words are the closest to following the regular add an '-s' rule of regular plurals. However, for these words, you need to add '-es' to make them plural.
Some examples of words like these are:
bus → buses
moss → mosses
wish → wishes
beach → beaches
box → boxes
blitz → blitzes
There is a slight exception to this rule. Some words that end in a single -s (such as gas), add another 's' before the '-es', e.g., gasses.
Most of the words that end in '-f' or '-fe' change to '-ve' before the plural '-s' is added. Here are some examples:
calf → calves
knife → knives
leaf → leaves
wife → wives
life → lives
loaf → loaves
Not all words ending in '-f' follow this rule, however, and words that end in '-ff' (e.g., puff or huff) usually follow the rule of regular plurals and just have an '-s' added (e.g. puffs or huffs). Additionally, some words ending in a singular '-f' simply use the regular plural rule (roof → roofs).
Words that end in '-y' can be split into two types.
Words with a '-y' following a consonant (e.g., city)
Words with a '-y' following a vowel (e.g., toy)
The latter type follows the same rule for regular plurals, meaning you just need to add an '-s' to make it plural (e.g., toys).
The first type discussed are irregular plurals and follow a consistent rule: remove the '-y' and replace it with '-ies'. Let's have a look at some examples:
puppy → puppies
lorry → lorries
activity → activities
baby → babies
berry → berries
spy → spies
Words ending with '-o' can follow both regular and irregular plural rules, ending either in '-s' or '-es'. Unfortunately, there are no set rules to which words end with which affix, and they simply need to be learned.
Let's have a look at some irregular forms:
potato → potatoes
tomato → tomatoes
hero → heroes
echo → echoes
And some regular forms:
photo → photos
piano → pianos
logo → logos
To add to the confusion, some words ending in '-o' can be pluralized in either the regular or irregular form. Here's a list of some of the words that can take either form:
volcano → volcanos or volcanoes
tornado → tornados or tornadoes
mosquito → mosquitos or mosquitoes
buffalo → buffalos or buffaloes
For words that end with '-um' the plural form is most often created by removing the '-um' and replacing it with an '-a'. For example:
datum → data
millennium → millennia
spectrum → spectra
Some words that end in '-um' can also be pluralized by adding an '-s' to the end. For example, the word forum can be pluralized to either fora or forums (this being the more common plural form).
When singular nouns ending with '-on' are pluralized, the '-on' is usually replaced with an '-a'. This can be seen in the following examples:
phenomenon → phenomena
automaton → automata
criterion → criteria
Words ending with '-is' and '-es' are often easily confused (e.g., analysis and analyses), but there's a simple rule to follow to help you understand the difference/
The singular form of a word ends in '-is,' and the plural forms end in '-es.' You can see this in the following words:
crisis → crises
analysis → analyses
axis → axes
nemesis → nemeses
Singular nouns that end in '-us' are often pluralized by replacing the ending with an '-i.' Let's have a look at some examples:
cactus → cacti
radius → radii
alumnus → alumni
fungus → fungi
There are exceptions to this rule, and some singular nouns ending in '-us' are instead altered to end in '-era,' '-ora,' or '-es.' Here are some examples of where this occurs:
genus → genera
corpus → corpora
octopus → octopuses
The final rule for pluralizing irregular nouns applies to words that end in either '-ex' or '-ix.' In these cases, the endings are replaced with '-ices' to create a plural. Here are some words that have these endings:
vertex → vertices
index → indices
appendix → appendices
Now that we've looked at all of the rules for irregular plural nouns, let's look at nouns that have the same spelling for both their singular and plural forms - zero plural nouns.
There isn't a rule for identifying these irregular plurals; you simply need to memorize them. Don't worry, though, as many of these will be words you've come across before.
Another type of irregular plural noun is nouns that change their spelling completely from their plural forms. These changes in spellings tend not to follow any rule and also need to be memorized.
Here's a list of nouns that have different spellings in their singular and plural forms:
person - people
child - children
man - men
woman - women
mouse - mice
goose - geese
louse - lice
ox - oxen
foot - feet
tooth - teeth
penny - pence
Now that we've gone through all of the rules for plural nouns, let's recap them all with an example for each.
|Rule||Singular Form||Plural Form|
|Nouns ending with -S, -SS, -SH, -CH, -X, and -Z||buslassgaloshwitchfoxfez||buseslassesgalosheswitchesfoxesfezzes|
|Nouns ending with -F or -FE||elfwife||elveswives|
|Nouns ending with -Y||bunny||bunnies|
|Nouns ending with -O||hero||heroes|
|Nouns ending with -UM||datum||data|
|Nouns ending with -ON||criterion||criteria|
|Nouns ending with -IS||crisis||crises|
|Nouns ending with -US||radius||radii|
|Nouns ending with -EX or -IX||vertexappendices||verticesappendices|
|nouns that stay the same||speciessheep||speciessheep|
|nouns that change almost completely||personfoot||peoplefeet|
Plurals are forms of nouns that refer to more than one. For example, "one dog" uses a singular form dog, while "three dogs" uses the plural form dogs.
Plurals are forms of words (usually nouns) that refer to multiple items of the nouns being discussed. For example, tables, violinists, corpora and data are all plural forms of nouns.
You can use the term "plural" in a sentence to refer to something that is 'more than one.' "Plural" also describes forms of nouns that refer to more than one of their namesake.
The singular noun leaf is altered to leaves for its plural form. An example of the plural form in a sentence could be:
The leaves were falling from the trees quickly now that the summer was over.
Plural nouns can be separated into either regular or irregular plurals. Regular plural nouns occur when an -S is added onto the singular form. Irregular plural nouns are divided into different categories depending on the ending letters of the singular form. Each ending has it's own rules regarding pluralization. There are also some plurals that have the same form as their singular counterparts.
What does it mean if something is plural?
There is more than one of it
Which word group has words that can be converted into plural forms?
Which term is most often used to describe the opposite of plural?
Which of these are types of plural nouns?
Regular and irregular
How are regular plural nouns created?
An -S is added to the end of the singular form.
Which of the following are regular plural nouns?
If a singular word ends in -SH or -CH, how is it turned into its plural form?
-ES is added to the end.
Which of the following words follows the rule of regular pluralization?
What is the singular form of the word calves?
In words ending in -Y, when is the -Y changed to -IES during pluralization?
When the -Y follows a consonant.
Which of these is the acceptable plural form of mosquito?
Which of the following best describes the word data?
True or false: When a singular word ends in -UM (e.g. millennium), the -UM is replaced with -AS to create the plural form.
False - the -UM ending is replaced with -A to create the plural form.
What is the plural form of phenomenon?
Select the following words that are correct plural forms.
True or false: When a singular noun ends in -US, its plural form swaps -US for an -I.
Partially true - this does happen in words such as cactus (cacti), but not in all words ending in -US.
What is the correct plural form of corpus?
When a singular noun ends in -EX or -IX, what needs to be done to turn it into its plural form?
For example, what is the plural form of index?
The -EX or -IX ending is replaced with -ICES, so the plural of index is indices.
What do these words all have in common?
fish deer sheep series
Their plural forms are the same as their singular forms.
Which of the following nouns aren't correct plural forms?
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