Forming plural nouns in English
I. Regular plurals
The regular plural is formed by adding the suffix -s to the singular: e.g. cat — cats, table — tables.
II. Irregular plurals
1. Nouns in -ss, -sh, -ch, -x
Nouns ending in -ss, -sh, -ch, -x form their plural by adding -es:
e.g. glass — glasses, dish — dishes, peach — peaches, box — boxes.
2. Nouns in -o
Nouns ending in -o form their plural by adding -es if they are used frequently they have been introduced into English early:
e.g. tomato — tomatoes, hero — heroes
They add -s only if they are of foreign origin or abbreviated words:
e.g. bamboo — bamboos, kilo — kilos.
A number of nouns ending in -o can take both -s and -es:
e.g. tornado — tornados or tornadoes, motto — mottos or mottoes.
3. Nouns in -y
Nouns ending in -y preceded by a consonant form their plural by changing -y into -i and adding -es:
e.g. fly — flies, country — countries.
Nouns ending in -y preceded by a vowel form their plural by adding -s only:
e.g. boy — boys, journey —journeys.
4. Nouns in -f or -fe
The following nouns ending in -f or -fe form their plural by changing the -f into -adding -es:
e.g. calf — calves, wife — wives. These are the following nouns:
calf, life, shelf, half, loaf, thief, knife, self, wife, leaf, sheaf, wolf
Some nouns ending in -f can either take -s or change the -f into -v- and add -es
e.g. dwarf— dwarfs or dwarves scarf — scarfs or scarves.
Other nouns ending in -f or -fe form their plural in the regular way:
e.g. handkerchief— handkerchiefs, fife —fifes.
The following nouns form their plural by a vowel change:
foot — feet, louse — lice, man — men, goose — geese, mouse — mice, woman — women, tooth — teeth
6. The -en plural
The following nouns form their plural by adding -en to the singular:
brother — brethren (i.e. 'fellow members of a religious society') child — children ox — oxen.
7. Foreign nouns
Words of foreign origin often form their plural according to the rules of a specific language:
a) Latin: stimulus — stimuli, larva — larvae, curriculum — curricula, codex — codices.
b) Greek: basis — bases, criterion — criteria.
c) French: bureau - beueaux
d) Italian: tempo - tempi
However, foreign plurals sometimes occur along with regular plurals:
e.g. index — indices, indexes , antenna — antennae, antennas, which indicate two different meanings or only the regular plural is used:
e.g. album — albums, metropolis — metropolises.
8. Zero plural
Some nouns do not have a separate plural form:
a) the names of certain animals, birds, and fish: e.g. sheep, grouse, trout
A sheep is a grass-eating animal.
Sheep are kept for their flesh as food and for their wool.
b) nouns denoting people of one nationality and ending in -ese or -ss:
e.g. Vietnamese, Swiss
Yesterday I met a Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese are natives of Vietnam.
c) craft (meaning 'boat') and aircraft:
e.g. I have a handy and useful little craft.
You can see all kinds of craft in the harbour.
d) definite numbers and measurements:
e.g. two hundred years, two score eggs
but indefinite numbers and measurements take the plural form:
e.g. hundreds of years, kilos of oranges.
Note that the form five kilos of oranges is also used.
e) offspring occurs with a singular verb if it refers to one human or animal and it is followed by a plural verb if it refers to more than one:
e.g. Their offspring is extremely intelligent. Their offspring are all slightly stupid.
a) The final element of compounds is usually pluralized:
e.g. breakdown — breakdowns, bookcase — bookcases.
b) In compounds whose first element is man or woman both elements are made plural:
e.g. gentleman farmer — gentlemen farmers woman doctor — women doctors.
c) Compounds consisting of countable nouns and prepositions or prepositional phrases take the plural inflection on nouns:
e.g. passer-by — passers-by, mother-in-law — mothers-in-law. d) Compounds formed by verbs or adjectives and prepositions take the plural at the end:
eg.take-off — take-offs, grown-up — grown-ups.
e) Compounds (typical of legal English) consisting of countable nouns and lake the plural inflexion on nouns:
e.g. attorney general — attorneys general, notary public — notaries public
but it is also possible to have alternative forms:
e.g. court-martials, postmaster-generals
f) Nouns ending in -ful become plural in two ways:
e.g. spoonful — spoonfuls, handful — handfuls or handsful.
g) Compounds whose last element is a mass noun do not form the plural:
e.g. sunshine, homework.
10) Proper nouns
Only surnames can be used in the plural and then they denote a family. Such plurals are formed by adding -s:
e.g. Mr. and Mrs. Brown = the Browns
Mr. and Mrs. Crosby = the Crosbys
except for names ending in a sibilant as in Mr. and Mrs. James = the Jameses, where -es in added.
Rules in forming the plural of nouns. The spelling rules of plural nouns.
|'-s' in most cases||cat||cats|
|'-es' when a noun ends with:||-o||potato||potatoes|
words of foreign origin take '-s'
|consonant + -y turns into||ies||country||countries|
|vowel + y takes '-s'||-ay||day||days|
|proper nouns||Fry||the Frys|
|nouns ending with -f / -fe||-ves||loaf||loaves|
|some nouns have both forms||-s or -ves||hoof||hoofs / hooves|
|scarf||scarfs / scarves|
|dwarf||dwarfs / dwarves|
|nouns which change vowels||foot||feet|
ExercisesGrammar exercises - Nouns
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