Nouns – The Formation of Plurals

Nouns – The Formation of Plurals
Nouns – The Formation of Plurals


noun is a word used as the name of a person or a thing. In the following examples, the nouns are underlined.
He opened the parcel.
She is a student.
The weather is warm.
cat is sitting on the steps.

1. Proper nouns

Names of individual persons or things are referred to as proper nouns. In English, proper nouns must begin with a capital letter. The underlined words in the following sentences are proper nouns.
e.g. The capital of England is London.
My friend, George, is an American.

2. Countable nouns

Countable nouns are nouns which can form a plural, and which can be preceded by aan, or a number. In the following examples, the countable nouns are underlined.
e.g. A bus is coming.
You may need an umbrella.
Here are two books.
Twenty students are present.

3. The formation of plurals

In general, when a countable noun refers to two or more things, it must be put into the plural. In English, the plural of most countable nouns is formed by adding s. For example:

Singular Plural
  hat   hats
  letter   letters
  pencil   pencils
  student   students

It has already been explained that a verb must agree with its subject. When the subject of a verb is a singular noun, the verb must be in the third person singular. The third person singular is the form of the verb used with the personal pronouns heshe, and it.

When the subject of a verb is a plural noun, the verb must be in the third person plural. The third person plural is the form of the verb used with the personal pronoun they. In the following examples, the verbs are printed in bold type and their subjects are underlined.

Singular Subject: The book is interesting.
Plural Subject: The books are interesting.

Singular Subject: A duck was flying overhead.
Plural Subject: Two ducks were flying overhead.

Singular Subject: One student lives here.
Plural Subject: Three students live here.

See Exercise 1.

a. Nouns ending in ch, s, sh, x or z

For nouns ending in chsshx or z, the plural is formed by adding es. The reason for this is that these words would be difficult to pronounce if only s were added. The ending es is pronounced as a separate syllable. For example:

Singular Plural
  branch   branches
  match   matches
  bus   buses
  pass   passes
  dish   dishes
  marsh   marshes
  ax   axes
  fox   foxes
  buzz   buzzes

It should be noted that when a plural is formed by adding s to words ending in cegese or ze, the final es is pronounced as a separate syllable. For example:

Singular Plural
  place   places
  voice   voices
  change   changes
  page   pages
  house   houses
  phrase   phrases
  size   sizes

In each of the preceding examples, the singular noun consists of one syllable, whereas the plural noun consists two syllables.

See Exercise 2.

b. Nouns ending in y

Nouns ending in y preceded by a consonant usually form the plural by changing the y to i and adding es. For example:

Singular Plural
  candy   candies
  city   cities
  lady   ladies
  story   stories

Nouns ending in y preceded by a vowel usually form the plural simply by adding s. For example:

Singular Plural
  boy   boys
  day   days
  key   keys
  toy   toys

See Exercise 3.

c. Plurals of proper nouns

Proper nouns form plurals following the rules given above, except that proper nouns ending in y always form the plural simply by adding s, even when the y is preceded by a consonant. For example:

Singular Plural
  Jill   Jills
  Tom   Toms
  George   Georges
  Grace   Graces
  Jones   Joneses
  Max   Maxes
  May   Mays
  Nancy   Nancys
  Sally   Sallys

See Exercise 4.

d. Nouns ending in f or fe

Some English nouns ending in f or fe change the f to v when forming the plural. For instance, the following nouns ending in f form the plural by changing the f to v and adding es:

Singular Plural
  calf   calves
  elf   elves
  half   halves
  leaf   leaves
  loaf   loaves
  self   selves
  sheaf   sheaves
  shelf   shelves
  thief   thieves
  wolf   wolves

In addition, the following nouns ending in fe form the plural by changing the f to v and adding s:

Singular Plural
  knife   knives
  life   lives
  wife   wives

There are also a few nouns ending in f which can form the plural in two different ways. For example:

Singular Plural
  hoof   hoofs or hooves
  scarf   scarfs or scarves
  staff   staffs or staves
  wharf   wharfs or wharves

Most other nouns ending in f or fe form the plural simply by adding s.

See Exercise 5.

e. Nouns ending in o

Some English nouns ending in o form the plural by adding s, some form the plural by adding es, and some can form the plural by adding either s or es. The following fairly commonly used nouns form the plural by adding es:

Singular Plural
  archipelago   archipelagoes
  cargo   cargoes
  echo   echoes
  hero   heroes
  innuendo   innuendoes
  mosquito   mosquitoes
  potato   potatoes
  tomato   tomatoes
  tornado   tornadoes
  torpedo   torpedoes
  veto   vetoes
  volcano   volcanoes

Most other nouns ending in o, particularly those of Spanish or Italian origin, can form the plural simply by adding s; however a good dictionary should be consulted in cases of doubt. For example:

Singular Plural
  albino   albinos
  alto   altos
  casino   casinos
  piano   pianos
  radio   radios
  ratio   ratios
  silo   silos
  solo   solos
  sombrero   sombreros
  soprano   sopranos
  studio   studios

See Exercise 6.

f. Foreign words

Many words from other languages have been adopted into the English language. Most of these form the plural by adding s or es, but some, particularly Greek and Latin words used for scientific purposes, form the plural in the same way that they do in the original language. For example:

Singular Plural
  analysis   analyses
  axis   axes
  basis   bases
  crisis   crises
  criterion   criteria
  honorarium   honoraria
  hypothesis   hypotheses
  medium   media
  nebula   nebulae
  nucleus   nuclei
  oasis   oases
  parenthesis   parentheses
  phenomenon   phenomena
  spectrum   spectra
  stimulus   stimuli
  stratum   strata
  synopsis   synopses
  synthesis   syntheses
  thesis   theses
  vertebra   vertebrae

See Exercise 7.

g. Hyphenated nouns

In the case of nouns formed from two or more words joined by hyphens, usually only the last word forms a plural. However, there are a few cases in which only the first word forms a plural. For example:

Singular Plural
  brother-in-law   brothers-in-law
  daughter-in-law   daughters-in-law
  father-in-law   fathers-in-law
  mother-in-law   mothers-in-law
  runner-up   runners-up
  sister-in-law   sisters-in-law
  son-in-law   sons-in-law


h. Numbers and letters

Numbers, letters, and other symbols can form plurals by adding ‘s. For example:

Singular Plural
  3   3’s
  b   b’s
  %   %’s


i. Irregular plurals

The English language has not always used s to form plurals. There are still a few words surviving from Old English, which do not use s to form the plural. For example:

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

Nouns ending in man usually form the plural by changing man to men. For example:

Singular Plural
  gentleman   gentlemen
  policeman   policemen
  policewoman   policewomen

A few nouns do not change in the plural. For example:

Singular Plural
  deer   deer
  sheep   sheep
  salmon   salmon




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.