Plurals of nouns

Most nouns form their plurals by simply adding –s to the end (e.g., cat/cats, book/books, journey/journeys). There are a number of exceptions to this rule, which are explained below.

Nouns ending in -y

If the noun ends with a consonant plus -y, make the plural by changing -y to -ies:

singular

plural

berry

berries

activity

activities

daisy

daisies

 

Nouns ending in -ch, -s, -sh, -x, or -z

If the noun ends with -ch, -s, -sh, -x, or -z, add -es to form the plural:

singular

plural

church

churches

bus

buses

fox

foxes

blintzblintzes

 

There is one exception to this rule. If the -ch ending is pronounced with a ‘k’ sound, you add -s rather than -es:

singular

plural

stomach

stomachs

epoch

epochs

 

Nouns ending in -f or -fe

With nouns that end in a consonant or a single vowel plus -f or -fe, change the -f or -fe to -ves:

singular

plural

knife

knives

half

halves

scarf

scarves

 

Nouns that end in two vowels plus -f usually form plurals in the normal way, with just an -s:

singular

plural

chief

chiefs

spoof

spoofs

 

Nouns ending in -o

Nouns ending in -o can add either -s or -es in the plural, and some can be spelled either way.

  • As a general rule, most nouns ending in -o add -s to make the plural:

singular

plural

solo

solos

zero

zeros

avocado

avocados

 

  • Those that have a vowel before the final -o always just add -s:

 

singular

plural

studio

studios

zoo

zoos

embryo

embryos

 

  • Here’s a list of the most common nouns ending in -o that are always spelled with -es in the plural:

 

singular

plural

echo

echoes

embargo

embargoes

hero

heroes

potato

potatoes

tomato

tomatoes

torpedo

torpedoes

veto

vetoes

 

  • Here are some of the common nouns ending in -o that can be spelled with either -s or -es in the plural:

 

singular

plural

banjo

banjos or banjoes

buffalo

buffalos or buffaloes

cargo

cargos or cargoes

domino

dominos or dominoes

flamingo

flamingos or flamingoes

fresco

frescos or frescoes

ghetto

ghettos or ghettoes

halo

halos or haloes

mango

mangos or mangoes

memento

mementos or mementoes

mosquito

mosquitos or mosquitoes

motto

mottos or mottoes

tornado

tornados or tornadoes

tuxedotuxedos or tuxedoes

volcano

volcanos or volcanoes

 

Plurals of foreign nouns

The plurals of words which have come into English from a foreign language such as Latin or Greek often have two possible spellings: the foreign plural spelling and an English one. For example, you can spell the plural of aquarium (from Latin) as either aquaria (the Latin plural) or aquariums (the English plural).

Words of Latin origin

Here’s a list of some words that came into English from Latin which can form their plurals in two ways:

Word

Latin plural

English plural

antenna

antennae

antennas

appendix

appendices

appendixes

cactus

cacti

cactuses

curriculum

curricula

curriculums

formula

formulae

formulas

index

indices

indexes

millennium

millennia

millenniums

referendum

referenda

referendums

stadium

stadia

stadiums

terminus

termini

terminuses

thesaurus

thesauri

thesauruses

vortex

vortices

vortexes

 

Note that there are a few nouns which have come into English from Latin which should always form their plural in the Latin way. Most of these are scientific or technical terms. The most common ones are:

singular

plural

alga

algae

alumnus

alumni

larva

larvae

 

Remember too, that the plural form of octopus should always be octopuses and never octopi. This is because the word came into English from Greek, not Latin, and so the usual rules for Latin plurals don't apply.

Words of Greek origin

Nouns which end in -is usually come from Greek. Their plurals are made by changing the -is to -es:

singular

plural

crisis

crises

analysis

analyses

neurosis

neuroses

 

Words of French origin

Certain words which have come into English from French have two possible plural forms: the original French plural and an English one. These words end in the letters -eau, for example:

Word

French plural

English plural

bureau

bureauxbureaus

chateau

chateauxchateaus

gateau

gateaux

gateaus

trousseau

trousseaux

trousseaus

 

Words of Italian origin

Most words which have come into English from Italian form their plurals with an -s, as if they were English words. For example, the Italian plural of cappuccino is cappuccini, but when the word is used in English, its plural form is cappuccinos. Here are some more examples:

Word

Italian plural

English plural

espresso

espressiespressos

pizza

pizzepizzas

risotto

risotti

risottos

fresco

freschi

frescos or frescoes

 

A notable exception to this is the word paparazzo, which keeps the Italian plural form paparazzi in English.

There's also a group of Italian words which have entered English in their plural forms – these are typically the names for various kinds of pasta. For example:

spaghetti; tagliatelle; tortellini; cannelloni; lasagne.

Although these words are already in their Italian plural forms, they can take an -s to form English plurals in certain contexts. For example:

They ordered three spaghettis and two cannellonis.

Here, the meaning is ‘a dish or serving of spaghetti’ rather than ‘a kind of pasta’.

Note that in British English, you should spell lasagne with an e at the end. In American English it's spelled with an -a at the end, i.e. lasagna (which is the Italian singular form, though this is rarely if ever used in Italian itself).

Words that have come into English from foreign languages are known as loanwords. Some of these loanwords have developed plural (or singular) forms in English that are regarded as grammatically incorrect because they go against the grammar of the original language.

 

Back to spelling.

You may also be interested in

Forming adverbs

Adding endings to words that end in -our

Adding endings to words that end in a double ‘l’

 

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