Singular and plural nouns
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Singular and plural nouns: rules + examples
We normally make the plural by adding -s to the singular of a noun:
a pen - two pens, a window - three windows, a tree - a lot of trees, a boy - many boys
There are, however, a lot of exceptions to this rule.
1. Nouns ending in -ss, -sh, -ch, -x, -o.
- We add -es to the noun that ends in -ss, -sh, -ch, -x.
dress - dresses, dish - dishes, match - matches, box - boxes
- Nouns ending in -o can form their plural by adding -es, too.
hero - heroes, potato - potatoes, tomato - tomatoes, torpedo - torpedoes
- But we often add -s only to the words ending in -o which are of foreign origin or abbreviated.
avocado - avocados, kimono - kimonos, piano - pianos, zero - zeros, kilo - kilos, photo -photos
- Some nouns ending in -o can have both plural forms, -s or -es.
banjo - banjos/banjoes, flamingo - flamingos/flamingoes, ghetto - ghettos/ghettoes, motto - mottos/mottoes, tornado - tornados/tornadoes
2. Nouns ending in -y.
- If the noun ends in a consonant and -y, we change -y into -i and add -es.
activity - activities, baby - babies, berry - berries, country - countries, fly - flies, lady - ladies
- But we add -s only to the nouns ending in a vowel plus -y.
boy - boys, day - days, guy - guys, key - keys, way - ways
3. Nouns ending in -f or -fe.
- Some nouns ending in -f or -fe make the plural in the following way.
calf - calves, half - halves, knife - knives, leaf - leaves, life - lives, loaf - loaves, sheaf - sheaves, shelf - shelves, thief - thieves, wife - wives, wolf - wolves
- Other nouns make their plural in the normal way by adding -s.
chief - chiefs, cliff - cliffs, gulf - gulfs, proof - proofs, roof - roofs, safe - safes
- The following words can have two plural forms.
dwarf - dwarfs/dwarves, handkerchief - handkerchiefs/handkerchieves, hoof - hoofs/hooves, scarf - scarfs/scarves, wharf - wharfs/wharves
4. Plural forms made by a vowel change.
- A few nouns make their plural forms by changing their vowels.
foot - feet, goose - geese, man - men, tooth - teeth, woman - women
5. Specific changes in plural forms.
- Some English nouns change in spelling substantially in their plural forms.
child - children, die - dice, louse - lice, mouse - mice, ox - oxen, person - people
6. Nouns that do not change in the plural.
Some words have the same form in the singular and plural:
I can see one sheep on the hill. - How many sheep can you see?
- Names of some fish and animals.
carp, cod, mackerel, pike, plaice, salmon, squid, trout, cattle, deer, moose, sheep, swine
- Other words that do not change.
barracks, craft (aircraft, spacecraft...), gallows, means, quid, series, species
7. Nouns that are always plural.
Some nouns always have a plural form, take a plural verb and cannot be used with numbers.
Your clothes are in the other room.
The goods have been delivered.
- Things which have two parts.
binoculars, glasses, headphones, jeans, knickers, pants, pyjamas, scales, scissors, tights, trousers
We use pair of if we want to count them.
I need two pairs of new tights and a pair of jeans.
- Some other nouns.
arms (weapons), belongings, clothes, congratulations, earnings, goods, grounds, likes/dislikes, outskirts, savings, stairs, surroundings, thanks, valuables
8. Nouns that are always singular.
Some nouns have a plural form, but take a singular verb, such as news.
The good news is that we can go on holiday now.
- Names of sciences and activities.
acoustics, athletics, classics, economics, ethics, gymnastics, mathematics/maths, physics, politics
- Names of diseases.
measles, mumps, rabies, rickets, shingles
- Names of games.
billiards, bowls, checkers, darts, dominoes, draughts, hearts
9. Nouns of Latin and Greek origin.
Many Latin and Greek words used in English retain their original plural forms. Others follow English grammar rules.
- Nouns with the Latin or Greek plural.
alumnus - alumni, fungus - fungi, nucleus - nuclei
axis - axes, analysis - analyses, crisis - crises, oasis - oases, thesis - theses
bacterium - bacteria, datum - data, erratum - errata, stratum - strata
criterion - criteria, phenomenon - phenomena
Different plural forms can sometimes have different meanings.
indexes = tables of contents, indices = collections of information in alphabetical order
brothers = siblings / brethren = members of the same comunity
Some singular forms can have different meanings than plural forms.
hair = grows on your head, hairs = grow on the skin of and animal or a person
arm = part of human body, arms = weapons
content = amount of a substance, contents = everything that is contained within something
wood = material, woods = small forest
English nouns Countable and uncountable nouns, singular and plural nouns, group nouns, compound nouns and proper nouns.
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