Common Ground International Impacts Communities Through Language - Learn Spanish - Learn English - Spanish Immersion Trips - Translation

Plural Nouns: Regular and Irregular Plurals in English

Plural Nouns: Regular and Irregular Plurals in English

All nouns are either singular of plural. Singular nouns mean just one, while plural nouns mean more than one. In this posting I talk about the rules for forming plural nouns. There will be many example words and some example sentences. The download at the end will give you more practice using these nouns.

Plural nouns: when to add “s”

The most common way to form the plural is to add s to the singular noun. Most of the time, the s is pronounced /z/. If the noun ends is a c,k,p, or t, the s is pronounced /s/. Here are some examples.

  1. book-book /s/
  2. house-houses  /z/
  3. cat-cat/s/
  4. dog-dog/z/
  5. picnic-picnics  /s/
  6. river-river/z/
  7. boat-boat/s/
  8. rod-rod/z/

Plural nouns: when to add “es”

Sometimes we need to form plural nouns by adding es to the singular noun. We do this when the singular noun ends in s, ss, sh, ch, or x. When this happens, and extra syllable is added to the word. This syllable is always pronounced /ez/. We do this for ease of pronunciation. It is difficult to say boxs. It is much easier to say boxes. Here are some examples.

  1. bus-buses 
  2. class-classes
  3. wish-wishes 
  4. church-churches
  5. tax-taxes 

Plural nouns for words ending in y: When to add s or ies

Some singular nouns end with y. If a singular noun ends with a vowel (a, e, i, o, or u) + y, we simply add s to form the plural noun. The s says /z/.

  1. day-day
  2. boy-boys 
  3. guy-guy

If the singular noun ends with a consonant + y, we drop the y and add ies. We pronounce the ending /eez/.

  1. baby-babies 
  2. sky-skies   When the y is pronounced as in I, the ies is pronounced /z/.
  3. city-cities 
  4. penny-pennies 
  5. family-families 
  6. story-stories 

Making nouns plural with “ves”

Some singular nouns end in f or fe. When this happens we drop the f or fe and add ves to form the plural noun. We also do this for greater ease of pronunciation. The ending is pronounced /z/.

  1. loaf-loaves 
  2. wife-wives 
  3. life-lives 
  4. elf-elves 
  5. calf-calves 
  6. knife-knives 
  7. self-selves
  8. thief-thieves 

Making nouns plural when the singular ends in o

Forming the plural  when the singular noun ends in o has some special rules. If the noun ends with a vowel + o, we simple add s to form the plural. It is pronounced /z/.

  1. studio-studio
  2. radio-radio
  3. stereo-stereo

If the singular noun ends with a consonant + o, we often (but not always) add es.

  1. echo-echoes 
  2. hero-heroes 
  3. domino-dominoes 
  4. mosquito-mosquitoes 
  5. tomato-tomatoes  
  6. potato-potatoe
  7. veto-vetoe

Be careful. There are exceptions to the rule. Many words Italian or Greek origin simply take s to form plural nouns.

  1. piano-piano
  2. solo-solo
  3. alto-alto
  4. photo-photos  

Often you many not know whether a noun ending with a consonant + o takes s or es to form the plural. If you do not know the origin of the word,just look it up. You may also simply have to memorize words that are exceptions to the rule.

When you have a choice on how to make nouns plural

There are some words ending with a consonant + o that give you a choice. The plurals are formed by adding either s or es. Both are correct.

  1. avacado–avacados/avacadoes 
  2. buffalo–buffalos/buffaloes 
  3. ghetto–ghettos/ghettoes 
  4. halo–halos/haloes 
  5. tornado–tornados/tornadoes 

Unusual plural nouns

Some singular nouns that end in is become plural nouns in an unusual way. We change the i to e. We pronounce this new ending /eez/.

  1. diagnosis-diagnose
  2. crisis-crises  
  3. thesis-these

Some singular nouns that end in us also form their plurals in an unusual way. We drop the us  and add add i. The i is pronounced as in the word pie.

  1. cactus-cact
  2. octopus-octop

Finally, some nouns of Latin origin end in um. These words become plural nouns by dropping the um and adding a.

  1. datum-data
  2. medium-medi

Nouns that do not change

Some singular nouns stay the same when they become plural nouns. The listener knows the noun is plural only by the context of the sentence.

  1. sheep-sheep 
  2. fish-fish  
  3. deer-deer 
  4. species-species
  5. aircraft-aircraft 

Irregular nouns

Unfortunately, English has many irregular plural nouns. Here is a list of some of the most common ones.

  1. woman-women 
  2. man-men 
  3. child-children 
  4. tooth-teeth 
  5. foot-feet 
  6. person-people 
  7. mouse-mice
  8. goose-geese 

Nouns that take a singular verb in a sentence

Some nouns are always plural, or they, at least, imply more than one item. However, in a sentence, these plural nouns take a singular verb. Some of these nouns are non-count (cannot be easily counted). You will see the plural noun below used in an example sentence.

  1. news–The 10pm news was very bad tonight.  Surely there was more than one story on the news.
  2. athleticsAthletics is an important part of college life. 
  3. linguisticsLinguistics is the science of language.
  4. dartsDarts is a popular game is many British pubs.
  5. billiardsBilliards is also called pool.
  6. hair–My sister’s hair is blond and curly. The word hair is written as a singular word and takes a singular verb. If implies more than one, however. My sister certainly has more than one hair on her head.

Plural nouns that refer to only one item and take a plural verb

Some nouns clearly look like plural nouns, but they refer to only one item. These nouns, however, always take a plural verb in a sentence.

  1. trousers–My trousers are too long.   This refers to a garment with tow legs, but still only one garment.
  2. pants–His new pants are black.   See note above.
  3. jeans–My jeans are torn, but they are very comfortable. See note above.
  4. glasses–His glasses are broken, so he can’t wear them.   Glasses have tow lenses, but the word refers to only one item.

You now know that there are many ways to form English plural nouns. Most of the time you simply add s. However, there are specific times when you need to add es, ies, or ves. Some singular nouns, though, don’t change when they become plural, and others take unusual or irregular plurals. Some plural nouns take a singular verb in a sentence, while others, that refer to one item, take a plural verb. The download will give you addition practice using plural nouns.

You can download the practice sheet now!

Idioms of the day

  1. to not sleep a wink–This means to get no sleep at all. I hate overnight flights. I don’t sleep a wink on planes, so I arrive exhausted.
  2. to pass the hat–This means to take up a collection of money for a specific purpose. We’re passing the hat to buy a wedding present for our co-worker. 

Misty Davidson
Posted on:
Post author

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *