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Ten Tips for Forming Plurals


  1. Most plurals are formed by adding an -s to the end of the word. However, you should NEVER use an apostrophe to form a plural (click here for Ten Tips for Using Apostrophes).
  2. If the noun ends in a consonant plus –y, form the plural by swapping the –y for –ies. Click here for a word list.

    Watch out: if the noun ends in a vowel plus –y, form the plural by adding –s as usual. For example, story (as in a tale/book) becomes stories, whereas storey (as in a floor/level) becomes storeys.
  3. If the noun ends in –ch, -s, -sh, -x, or -z, form the plural by adding –es. Click here for a word list.
  4. HOWEVER, if a noun ending in –ch is pronounced with a ‘k’ sound, form the plural by adding –s. For example: epochs, lochs, matriarchs, monarchs, patriarchs, and stomachs.
  5. If the noun ends in a consonant or a single vowel plus –f or –fe, the plural is sometimes formed by swapping the –f or –fe with –ves. You will need to take note of these as you come across them. Click here for a word list of –ves plurals.

    Watch out: nouns ending in two vowels followed by –f or –fe are usually followed by –s when in the plural form. For example: briefs, chiefs, goofs.
  6. If the noun ends in –o, the plural is usually formed by adding –s, and if there is a vowel before the –o, this is always the case. Some nouns ending in –o, however, are turned into plurals by adding –es (and, in some cases, both –s and –es endings are acceptable). You will need to take note of these and learn them as you come across them.

    Some examples of –oes plurals are: buffaloes, echoes, embargoes, heroes, mosquitoes, potatoes, tomatoes, tornadoes, torpedoes, vetoes, volcanoes, and zeroes.
  7. Nouns ending in –is are usually of Greek origin. Form the plural by swapping the –is for –es. For example: crises, nemeses, and neuroses.
  8. Watch out for loanwords. Usually foreign words take on English plural endings, and in some cases it is acceptable to use either the plural from the original language or the English plural. In a few cases (usually technical terms such as ‘algae’ or ‘larvae’), the plural should always be formed following the rules of the original language. You will need to take note of which plural formation to use as you come across a word. If it is acceptable to use either the original or the English plural form, make sure you are consistent – so if you are using Latin plurals, do so throughout the whole piece of work (for example, don’t swap between ‘cacti’ and ‘cactuses’).

    Some loanwords have also entered the English language already in the plural form. The word spaghetti, for example, doesn’t refer to an individual strand of pasta (a spaghetto!), but the whole dish - so you don’t need to say spaghettis.
  9. Watch out for nouns which only exist/are most commonly used in the plural form. Click here for a word list of examples.
  10. Watch out for exceptions. You’re probably tired of hearing this by now, but the English language is full of exceptions. Some plurals are formed by changing the vowels in a singular noun, while others nouns remain the same in both the singular and plural forms. Unfortunately, you’ll have to learn these as you go along. Click here for a word list of examples.

All this may seem like a lot to get your head around, but don’t worry: after a while, figuring out the plural of a word will become instinctive.

Have a good week!

Avani Shah


09 Jun 2014
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