The Rules to Form Plural Nouns - Explained with Examples
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- Singular and Plural Nouns
What Is a Singular Noun?
A singular noun refers to just one person, animal, place, or an idea.
This is my computer.
I met the engineer.
What Is a Plural Noun?
A plural noun is used to denote more than one person, animal, place, or idea.
The kids are in the park.
Animals should not be caged in zoos.
Rules for Forming Plural Nouns
There are many rules to form plural nouns.
The general rule in English to form plurals is to add an -s.
toy - toys
rat - rats
To make the plurals of nouns ending in -s, -x, -sh, -ch, -ss or -z, add an -es.
bus - buses
box - boxes
bush - bush
church - churches
glass - glasses
buzz - buzzes
Some nouns ending in -s or -z are made plural by the -s or -z being doubled prior to adding the -es.
quiz - quizzes
To make plurals from nouns ending in a -y where the letter before the -y is a consonant, change the y to an i and add an -es.
city - cities
country – countries
If the noun ending in a -y is preceded by a vowel, its plural is formed by adding an -s.
boy - boys
tray - trays
To make plurals of nouns ending in the letter -f or -fe, change -f and -fe to -v and add an -es.
wife - wives
There are a few exceptions to this rule. The nouns ending in an -ff take an -s in the plural form.
cliff - cliffs
The nouns ending in -ief, -oof, eef, ff, or -rf generally take -s to form plurals.
belief - beliefs
dwarf - dwarfs
gulf - gulfs
To make plurals of nouns ending in the letter -o, add -es. If -o is preceded by a vowel, just add -s.
hero - heroes
foe - foes
If -o is preceded by a vowel, then just add -s.
radio - radios
photo - photos
Some nouns remain the same when pluralized.
fish - fish
deer - deer
Irregular nouns follow no specific rules, so it’s best to memorize these or look them up in a good dictionary.
man - men
mouse - mice
Some irregular plurals are formed by changing the vowels.
foot - feet
goose - geese
Some nouns ending in -us can be made plural in two ways: by changing the -us to -i and by adding an -es.
cactus - cacti or cactuses
radius - radii or radiuses
stimulus - stimuli or stimuluses
terminus - termini or terminuses
Certain words that end in -us and have come to the English language from Latin become plural by replacing -us with -i.
alumnus - alumni
stimulus - stimuli
Words that end in -us and do not have a Latin origin don't come under this rule.
status - statuses
octopus - octopuses
If the singular noun ends in -is, the plural ends in -es.
axis - axes
If the singular noun ends in -on, the plural ends in -a.
phenomenon - phenomena
Some nouns have no plural form.
Some nouns have no singular form.
Subject-Verb Agreement with Singular and Plural Nouns
The basic rule is that a singular subject takes a singular verb, whereas a plural subject takes a plural verb.
Alex is working on his assignment.
Alex and Emma are working on their assignments.
Nouns That Look like Plural
Certain nouns look like plural nouns, but are actually singular and take singular verbs.
The news covers all major events.
Billiards is a popular game.
Certain nouns like "trousers" and "glasses" take plural verbs.
Where are my trousers?
Plurals of Compound Words
The plurals of compound nouns are formed by adding -s to the principal word or headword.
brother-in-law – brothers-in-law
Compound nouns with the suffix -ful have two possible plural forms.
handful - handfuls or handsful
spoonful - spoonfuls or spoonsful
The version with -s at the end of the word: handfuls and spoonfuls, is a little more widely practiced though.
For compound nouns formed with a preposition, the -s is added to the noun.
passer-by - passers-by
When neither of the two words that make up a compound noun is a noun, the -s is added to the preposition.
grown-up - grown-ups
go-between - go-betweens
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