Plurals In English 1

Plurals

Many English words form their plural by the addition of a final -s. This simple plural ending is used following most consonant sounds, even when the final letter is a silent -e. The plural ending

-s is also found after vowel sounds, even when the spelling of a word with a final vowel sound ends with -y, -e, or other silent letter:

Consonant -y and -e Silent Letter
songs toys sighs
cakes lies plows

Words that end in a consonant followed by -y change the -y to -ie and then add -s:

candy → candies
lady →  ladies
pony → ponies

If a noun ends with the sound -s, -z, -ch, -dg, or -sh, the plural ending will be -es and will be pronounced as an individual syllable:

case → cases
size → sizes
catch → catches
edge → edges
fl ash → flashes

Some English words do not use an -s in the formation of a plural. Their plural formations are irregular:

child → children
foot → feet
goose → geese
louse → lice
man → men
mouse → mice
ox → oxen
tooth → teeth
woman → women

Another irregular plural form occurs in nouns that end in -f or -fe. The letters -f or -fe change to -ves to form the plural:

calf → calves
elf → elves
half → halves
hoof → hooves
knife → knives
leaf → leaves
life → lives
scarf → scarfs/scarves
shelf → shelves
thief → thieves
wife → wives
wolf → wolves

When a noun ends in -o, the plural formation is not constant for all words. Some words form the plural with -s, while others form the plural with -es. For example:

Plural with -os

auto → autos
kilo → kilos
memo → memos
photo → photos
piano → pianos
solo → solos

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Plural with -oes

echo → echoes
hero → heroes
potato → potatoes
tomato → tomatoes
torpedo → torpedoes
veto → vetoes

Some words that end in -o can form the plural with either -os or -oes. For example:

buffalo → buffalos/buffaloes
cargo → cargos/cargoes
mosquito → mosquitos/mosquitoes
motto → mottos/mottoes
tornado → tornados/tornadoes
volcano → volcanos/volcanoes

Certain nouns are irregular in that they use the same form in the both the singular and plural, yet the noun always appears to be a plural noun. For example:

Singular Plural
one barracks five barracks
one crossroads five crossroads
one headquarters five headquarters
one species five species

Other nouns use the same form in both the singular and plural, yet the noun always appears to be a singular noun. For example:

Singular Plural
one deer ten deer
one fish ten fish
one offspring ten offspring
one sheep ten sheep

Interestingly, the names of many fish follow this pattern. For example: cod, halibut, perch, trout, and tuna. A notable exception is shark → sharks.

Nouns that end in -is form their plural by changing -is to -es:

analysis → analyses
basis → bases
crisis → crises
emphasis → emphases
neurosis → neuroses
oasis → oases
parenthesis → parentheses
synopsis → synopses
thesis → theses

There are many foreign words in English. They tend to retain the plural form of the foreign language. However, some have also developed an English plural form that is used just as much as the foreign plural:

Latin Nouns
That End in -a Latin Plural English Plural
antenna antennae antennas
formula formulae formulas
larva larvae N/A
nebula nebulae nebulas
vertebra vertebrae N/A
Latin Nouns
That End in -ex/-ix Latin Plural English Plural
appendix appendices appendixes
cervix cervices cervixes
index indices indexes
matrix matrices matrixes
vortex vortices N/A
Latin Nouns
That End in -us Latin Plural English Plural
alumnus alumni N/A
cactus cacti cactuses
fungus fungi funguses
nucleus nuclei N/A
octopus octopi octopuses
Latin Nouns
That End in -um Latin Plural English Plural
bacterium bacteria N/A
curriculum curricula curriculums
datum data N/A
medium media mediums
memorandum memoranda memorandums

Words that come from Italian and are commonly used in English retain the Italian plural. For example:

libretto → libretti
paparazzo → paparazzi
tempo → tempi
virtuoso → virtuosi

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One comment on “Plurals In English

  1. Chelsea Aug 2,2012 6:26 pm

    💡 it is a great help very great help

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