Nouns – The Formation of Plurals

CHAPTER 13.  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  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:

SingularPlural
  gentleman  gentlemen
  policeman  policemen
  policewoman  policewomen

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

SingularPlural
  deer  deer
  sheep  sheep
  salmon  salmon

 

EXERCISES for Chapter 13

Exercise 1

For each of the following sentences, change the subject of the verb to the plural, and change the verb so that it agrees with its subject. For example:
The room is large.
The rooms are large.

The letter was delivered yesterday.
The letters were delivered yesterday.

The tourist has a map.
The tourists have a map.

The girl studies hard.
The girls study hard.

  1. The book was heavy.
  2. The train has left.
  3. The bird was singing.
  4. The door was closed by the superintendent.
  5. The shoe fits well.
  6. The parcel is being opened.
  7. The newspaper is read by many people.
  8. The flame is flickering.
  9. The ship has been sighted.
  10. The street was being cleaned.

Exercise 2

For each of the following sentences, change the subject of the verb to the plural, and change the verb so that it agrees with its subject. For example:
The beach is supervised by lifeguards.
The beaches are supervised by lifeguards.

The singer performs twice a week.
The singers perform twice a week.

The class was visiting the museum.
The classes were visiting the museum.

The vase has been filled with flowers.
The vases have been filled with flowers.

  1. The box was empty.
  2. The river flows to the sea.
  3. The bush has grown in the last two months.
  4. The hat was on sale.
  5. The bench is made of stone.
  6. The plant has been watered.
  7. The hedge is being trimmed.
  8. The process was invented last year.
  9. The sketch is nearly finished.
  10. The breeze was warm.
  11. The wall is being painted.
  12. The church is two hundred years old.
  13. The bridge will soon be completed.
  14. The carpet has been cleaned.
  15. The branch is covered with ice.

Exercise 3

For each of the following sentences, change the subject of the verb to the plural, and change the verb so that it agrees with its subject. For example:
The party was held downtown.
The parties were held downtown.

The society accomplishes a great deal.
The societies accomplish a great deal.

The day seemed long.
The days seemed long.

  1. The berry was red.
  2. The key was difficult to use.
  3. The valley is very beautiful.
  4. The eddy can be dangerous for swimmers.
  5. The journey was undertaken by pilgrims.
  6. The daisy was picked by the child.
  7. The monkey is considered to be sacred.
  8. The gully is full of water.
  9. The boy ran to school.
  10. The facility is open to the public.
  11. The secretary works overtime.
  12. The toy was being sold at a discount.
  13. The tray is being piled high with dishes.
  14. The dairy opens at nine o’clock.
  15. The chimney has been repaired.

Exercise 4

Rewrite each of the following sentences, adding the word two before the proper noun. Change the proper noun to the plural, and change the verb so that it agrees with its subject. For example:
Smith lives in this building.
Two Smiths live in this building.

Harry was nominated for the position.
Two Harrys were nominated for the position.

Alex is here.
Two Alexes are here.

  1. Maurice is volunteering.
  2. Jones was ordered to leave.
  3. Harrison owns land.
  4. Sandy has telephoned us.
  5. Susan met us.
  6. Trish is studying French.
  7. Pat does well in school.
  8. Liz has arrived early.
  9. Jacky was making the cake.
  10. Russ knows all the answers.
  11. Eric is planning the party.
  12. Terry has difficulty understanding Spanish.

Exercise 5

For each of the following sentences, change the subject of the verb to the plural, and change the verb so that it agrees with its subject. For example:
The knife has been sharpened.
The knives have been sharpened.

The reef attracts tourists.
The reefs attract tourists.

The thief will be caught.
The thieves will be caught.

  1. The leaf has turned red.
  2. The fife had the solo.
  3. The calf is hungry.
  4. The scarf kept him warm.
  5. The knife will be useful.
  6. The giraffe was eating leaves.
  7. The cliff is being explored by geologists.
  8. The wolf howls every night.
  9. The loaf is rising.
  10. The chief will decide.
  11. The shelf is being used.
  12. The proof is convincing.

Exercise 6

For each of the following sentences, change the subject of the verb to the plural, and change the verb so that it agrees with its subject. For example:
The hero was enthusiastically welcomed.
The heroes were enthusiastically welcomed.

The studio is used by many artists.
The studios are used by many artists.

  1. The radio is broadcasting news every hour.
  2. The tomato was being baked.
  3. The mosquito woke us up.
  4. The soprano performed with the orchestra.
  5. The solo was played by the violinist.
  6. The archipelago lies off the coast of South America.
  7. The silo is used for storing corn.
  8. The potato has been boiled.
  9. The volcano is not active.
  10. The casino was open until one o’clock in the morning.
  11. The innuendo should be ignored.
  12. The ratio has been favorable.

Exercise 7

For each of the following sentences, change the subject of the verb to the plural, and change the verb so that it agrees with its subject. For example:
The hypothesis is still tentative.
The hypotheses are still tentative.

The nebula has been studied by many scientists.
The nebulae have been studied by many scientists.

The thesis will have been reviewed by experts.
The theses will have been reviewed by experts.

  1. The synopsis is accurate.
  2. The phenomenon surprised us.
  3. The stratum contains fossils.
  4. The analysis was proved correct.
  5. The crisis has caused concern.
  6. The spectrum includes many different colors of light.
  7. The axis of rotation will be investigated.
  8. The stimulus has been found to be effective.
  9. The criterion was used to judge which proposals should be accepted.
  10. The oasis is visited by many travelers.
  11. The honorarium is being presented today.
  12. The parenthesis was omitted.

Exercise 8

For each of the following sentences, change the subject of the verb to the plural, and change the verb so that it agrees with its subject. For example:
The goose likes to eat daisies.
The geese like to eat daisies.

The ox was being led to the barn.
The oxen were being led to the barn.

The salmon has been caught by the bear.
The salmon have been caught by the bear.

  1. The child is happy.
  2. The sheep has been sheared.
  3. The man was being given directions.
  4. The deer is eating the hay.
  5. The woman has visited us.
  6. The mouse makes a great deal of noise at night.
  7. The gentleman would like to have breakfast early.
  8. The louse is a nuisance.
  9. Your foot is size ten.
  10. The fisherman has had a good season.
  11. The tooth needs to be filled.
  12. The policewoman was directing traffic.

ANSWERS TO THE EXERCISES for Chapter 13

Answers to Exercise 1:

  1. The books were heavy. 2. The trains have left. 3. The birds were singing. 4. The doors were closed by the superintendent. 5. The shoes fit well. 6. The parcels are being opened. 7. The newspapers are read by many people. 8. The flames are flickering. 9. The ships have been sighted. 10. The streets were being cleaned.

Answers to Exercise 2:

  1. The boxes were empty. 2. The rivers flow to the sea. 3. The bushes have grown in the last two months. 4. The hats were on sale. 5. The benches are made of stone. 6. The plants have been watered. 7. The hedges are being trimmed. 8. The processes were invented last year. 9. The sketches are nearly finished. 10. The breezes were warm. 11. The walls are being painted. 12. The churches are two hundred years old. 13. The bridges will soon be completed. 14. The carpets have been cleaned. 15. The branches are covered with ice.

Answers to Exercise 3:

  1. The berries were red. 2. The keys were difficult to use. 3. The valleys are very beautiful. 4. The eddies can be dangerous for swimmers. 5. The journeys were undertaken by pilgrims. 6. The daisies were picked by the child. 7. The monkeys are considered to be sacred. 8. The gullies are full of water. 9. The boys ran to school. 10. The facilities are open to the public. 11. The secretaries work overtime. 12. The toys were being sold at a discount. 13. The trays are being piled high with dishes. 14. The dairies open at nine o clock. 15. The chimneys have been repaired.

Answers to Exercise 4:

  1. Two Maurices are volunteering. 2. Two Joneses were ordered to leave. 3. Two Harrisons own land. 4. Two Sandys have telephoned us. 5. Two Susans met us. 6. Two Trishes are studying French. 7. Two Pats do well in school. 8. Two Lizes have arrived early. 9. Two Jackys were making the cake. 10. Two Russes know all the answers. 11. Two Erics are planning the party. 12. Two Terries have difficulty understanding Spanish.

Answers to Exercise 5:

  1. The leaves have turned red. 2. The fifes had the solo. 3. The calves are hungry. 4. The scarfs kept him warm. or The scarves kept him warm. 5. The knives will be useful. 6. The giraffes were eating the leaves. 7. The cliffs are being explored by geologists. 8. The wolves howl every night. 9. The loaves are rising. 10. The chiefs will decide. 11. The shelves are being used. 12. The proofs are convincing.

Answers to Exercise 6:

  1. The radios are broadcasting news every hour. 2. The tomatoes were being baked. 3. The mosquitoes woke us up. 4. The sopranos performed with the orchestra. 5. The solos were played by the violinist. 6. The archipelagoes lie off the coast of South America. 7. The silos are used for storing corn. 8. The potatoes have been boiled. 9. The volcanoes are not active. 10. The casinos were open until one o’clock in the morning. 11. The innuendoes should be ignored. 12. The ratios have been favorable.

Answers to Exercise 7:

  1. The synopses are accurate. 2. The phenomena surprised us. 3. The strata contain fossils. 4. The analyses were proved correct. 5. The crises have caused concern. 6. The spectra include many different colors of light. 7. The axes of rotation will be investigated. 8. The stimuli have been found to be effective. 9. The criteria were used to judge which proposals should be accepted. 10. The oases are visited by many travelers. 11. The honoraria are being presented today. 12. The parentheses were omitted.

Answers to Exercise 8:

  1. The children are happy. 2. The sheep have been sheared. 3. The men were being given directions. 4. The deer are eating the hay. 5. The women have visited us. 6. The mice make a great deal of noise at night. 7. The gentlemen would like to have breakfast early. 8. The lice are a nuisance. 9. Your feet are size ten. 10. The fishermen have had a good season. 11. The teeth need to be filled. 12. The policewomen were directing traffic.
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