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Singular & Plural Nouns: Definitions, Rules & Examples

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  • 0:05 Singular & Plural Nouns
  • 0:35 Plural Nouns
  • 2:08 Irregular Plural Nouns
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Bonn

Amy has taught college and law school writing courses and has a master's degree in English and a law degree.

This video takes a look at how singular nouns are turned into plural nouns. Check it out to learn about regular and irregular plurals as well as important definitions, rules, and exceptions.

Singular and Plural Nouns

Today, I picked up a few thing at the stores, and then I picked up my childs at school. Just a regular day in my lifes, like many other daies!

As the problems in that sentence demonstrate, it's important to pay attention to whether the nouns we use are singular or plural and to know how to make nouns plural the right way.

Most nouns are easily made plural, but as with a lot of things in the English language, there are a few nouns for which different rules apply.

Plural Nouns

You may know that a noun identifies a person, place, thing, or idea.

A singular noun names one person, place, thing, or idea, while a plural noun names more than one person, place, thing, or idea.

There are a few basic rules to remember when it comes to turning a singular noun into a plural noun.

1. Most singular nouns need an 's' at the end to become plural.

These are the easy ones. You can just add an 's' to alien, taco, or skateboard, for example, and you instantly have aliens, tacos, and skateboards.

There's a second rule for nouns that end with certain letters.

2. Singular nouns ending in 's', 'ss', 'sh', 'ch', 'x', or 'z' need an 'es' at the end to become plural.

So, if you have a secretive, alcoholic octopus drinking wine from a glass behind a bush, and you decide that one of those just isn't enough, you'd have two octopuses drinking from glasses behind bushes.

The same would be true for a crutch, a box, and a blintz, which would become crutches, boxes, and blintzes.

Note that some singular nouns ending in 's' or 'z' require that you double the 's' or 'z' before adding an 'es'. For example, a really bad day might involve you having not one pop quiz, but two pop quizzes.

Irregular Plural Nouns

And then, there are a lot of nouns with weird rules for becoming plural.

3. Some nouns are the same in both their singular and plural forms.

So I can have one deer or two deer - or one sheep or two sheep. Or I might be hooked on one T.V. series or two T.V. series.

4. Some nouns ending in 'f' require that you change the 'f' to a 'v' and then add an 'es' at the end to make them plural.

For example, you might have not just one elf sneaking into your house on Christmas night, but two elves.

The English language loves to have exceptions, though, so the houses in your neighborhood have roofs, not rooves, and your wacky old uncle has crazy beliefs, not believes.

5. Nouns that end in 'y' often require that you change the 'y' to an 'i', and then add an 'es' at the end to make them plural.

So while you may enjoy making silly faces at a stranger's baby, you may not be thrilled to find yourself surrounded by strangers' babies on a long flight.

English wouldn't be half as fun without lots of little exceptions, and there's one with this rule. Luckily there's a tip to help us out with this one.

With a noun that ends with 'y', if there's a vowel ('a, e, i, o, u') right before the 'y', then you just add an 's' at the end to make the noun plural.

For example, I'm not certain, but it seems like it would be a lot of fun to ride on an airplane surrounded by monkeys or toys.

This next one doesn't come up all that often, but it's a good one to remember. Most people don't get it right, so you'll be pretty impressive when you show that you know how it's done.

6. A hyphenated compound noun requires that you make the first, major noun plural.

For example, there are two runners-up in a beauty pageant, not runner-ups. There might be a meeting for editors-in-chief, not editor-in-chiefs. Many people might be quick to tell you that just one is plenty; they don't need multiple mothers-in-law.

Finally, there are some odds-and-ends irregular plurals. You no doubt know that childs don't go to the dentist when their tooths hurt; children go when their teeth hurt.

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