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
blintz blintzes
 
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
tuxedo tuxedos 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
bureaux bureaus
chateau
chateaux chateaus
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
espressi espressos
pizza
pizze pizzas
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.
 

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