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For Better English, Learn Plural Nouns

Updated: Feb 21

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Introduction - How to aim for better English by learning plural nouns

Many people appear to have problems when it comes to pluralising nouns.

In this article, I'll be answering the question: How do we make nouns plural?

Some plural forms are easy and follow simple rules, but as I will explain, others can be rather tricky. And others, you need to memorise.

So, let's begin.

We use plurals of nouns to show when there is more than one person, animal, place, or thing.

The usual (and simple) way to make nouns plural is to add an '-s' to the end of the noun.

Here are some examples of making plural nouns:

one girl – two girls

one boy – two boys, three boys

one bag – five bags

one pencil – four pencils

one price – three prices

one prize – fifteen prizes

one zoo - twenty zoos

Other plural noun endings

If a noun ends in '-s','-x', '-z', or a cluster of consonants, such as '-sh', '-ch', or

'-tch' (as in 'catch'), we add '-es' to render it plural.

one dish – four dishes

one box – two boxes

one bus – six buses

For example:

one cockroach – two coockroaches

one witch – three witches

one miss – two misses

one waltz – two waltzes

Words ending in '-y'

When the noun ends in a '-y' and a consonant comes before it, we change the 'y' to an 'i' and add '-es'.

For example:

one country – three countries

one city – two cities

one battery – four batteries

one lady – five ladies

one reality – two realities

one butterfly – ten butterflies

one fly – a million flies

But, when a word ends in a '-y' preceded by a vowel, all we do is add an '-s' as usual:

one toy – two toys

one replay – two replays

one monkey – ten monkeys

one guy – two guys

Irregular plurals

There are some nouns that are irregular. They do not adhere to spelling rules, and so these, unfortunately, you need to memorise them.

Here are the more common ones:

one man – two men

one woman – four women

one person – two people*

one goose – two geese

one mouse – two mice

one child – five children

one tooth – three teeth

one foot – six feet

(*Persons is also a plural form of person. In modern English it is usually reserved for more formal, or legal language.

For example: “Any such persons found to be guilty of trespassing will be prosecuted.”)

Be aware that irregular plural nouns cannot be made plural again.

That is, you cannot have 'childrens' or 'feets'.

'People' is an exception. It can be 'peoples' in some cases.

Many different peoples make up Australia.

Also, be careful when pluralising words such as 'moose' to 'meese' (rhymes with goose and geese). The plural of 'moose' remains 'moose'.

Adding '-ves' versus adding '-s'

With some nouns that end in '-f,' '-fe', or '-lf', we replace the endings with '-ves' to make them plural.

Here is a list of some common examples:

one life – two lives

one wife – three wives

one loaf – five loaves

one leaf – sixteen leaves

one knife – two knives

one thief – forty thieves

one half – two halves

one wolf – three wolves

Words that end in '-f,” '-fe,' or '-lf'

Many other words that end in '-f,' '-fe,' or '-lf' become plural with an '-s' on the end.

Below are some common examples:

one chief – two chiefs

one brief – two briefs

one safe – two safes

one gulf – two gulfs

one belief – two beliefs

one roof – two roofs

Words ending in either '-ves' or '-s'.

And yet some other words can receive either '-ves' or '-s,' such as:

one handkerchief – two handkerchiefs or two handkerchieves

one hoof – two hoofs – four hooves

one scarf – two scarfs – three scarves

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule for which words will receive a “-ves” ending, an “-s” ending, or both. They are irregular and you must memorise them.

Words ending in '-ff' or '-ffe'

Words ending in '-ff' or '-ffe' have straightforward plural forms: all we do is add '-s' to the end, as in:

one cliff – two cliffs

one bailiff – two bailiffs

one giraffe – two giraffes

one gaffe – two gaffes

Words with the same plural and singular forms

Some nouns stay the same in both singular and plural forms.

For example:

one fish – a hundred fish*

one sheep – twenty sheep

one bison – two bison

one aircraft – three aircraft

one moose - five moose (as explained above)

*Note that the plural of fish can also be'fishes'. But, it is more common to use this “-es” form when we refer to more than one kind of fish.

'All the fishes of the sea' as opposed to many fish in general.

Countable and Uncountable nouns

When we can count the numbers of things, we call them countable nouns.

For example: one horse, three oranges, fourteen pieces of paper.

We cannot divide uncountable nouns into individual units.

Unless you want to count each grain of sand on the beach!

So they do not have a plural form at all.

Here are some examples:











To count them, we need to use a unit of measure.

Such as: one kilogram of rice, a carton of milk, a wad of cash, lots of money, a piece of advice, etc.

Let me qualify that earlier statement by saying that there are many kinds of:

  • rice (long grain, Basmati, short grain etc)

  • butter (butters: salted, unsalted etc)

  • milk (goats' milk, cows' milk, camels' milk, almond milk, etc.)

  • breads (Turkish, wholemeal, white, garlic etc.)

Words that come from Latin or Greek

There are also nouns taken from Latin or Greek that keep their original forms in the plural.

Some of these words have begun shifting towards more conventional plural forms. They have also shifted to their original spellings.

For example:

singular form -> plural form

index – indices (indexes now is also acceptable)

appendix – appendices (appendixes is also acceptable)

fungus – fungi (pronounced 'fun guy')

criterion – criteria (pronounced 'cry-tee-re-a')

nucleus – nuclei (pronounced 'new-clee-i')

radius - radii (pronounced 'ray-dee-i')

syllabus – syllabi (syllabuses is also used sometimes)

focus – foci (ponounced 'fo-kai')

cactus – cacti (pronounced 'cack-tie' - but many people say 'cactuses' now)

crisis – crises (pronounced 'cry-sees')

thesis – theses (pronounced 'thee-sees' - 'th' as in 'three')

basis - bases (pronounced 'bay-seas' not 'bayse-ezz', that's the plural of base)

phenomenon - phenomena

Plural adjectives that do not exist

In Latin languages, people pluralise adjectives to describe plural nouns.

In contrast, in English, ADJECTIVES are NEVER made plural.

For example:

'Two blue birds.'


'Two blues birds.'

'Roses are red.'


'Roses are reds.'

'Many are 10-year-old houses.'


'Many are 10-years-old houses.'


'Many are 10-year-olds houses.'

So, the rule is that we always pluralise the NOUN, and NEVER the ADJECTIVE.


But, there are always exceptions.

When shouting out support for your team: "Come on the Reds!" (the Red Team) or "Go Blues!" are acceptable.

But, while colours are usually adjectives, sometimes they can be nouns too.

And, in the example above: There can be two Blues (or Reds) players.


In this article, I have taught you the art (or craft) of the pluralisation of nouns.

I have explained countable and uncountable nouns.

And irregular forms too, and I set out some general rules for you to follow.

I hope you strive for better English by learning plural nouns.

Further Reading

For more articles on grammar, you can find them here.

Having good grammar should be an essential skill to getting good English. Read this article to learn why having good grammar is very important.

© Apex English Tutoring Jan 2023 - Updated January 2024

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About Me

Hello and welcome!

My name is Michael Finemore and I am the owner-operator of Apex English Tutoring.

As an experienced English Teacher, I'm passionate about helping people turn their 'poor' English into great English, with easy and effective ways to practice.

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