English Spelling Rules for Plural Nouns

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Our world is filled with nouns. For such an important part of speech, it is vital to follow the right spelling rules. In this lesson, we will discuss the rules for spelling plural nouns.

Plural Nouns

Nouns are perhaps the most used part of speech in the English language. Each sentence we use usually has multiple nouns. A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing or idea. For example, dog, chair, mailman, and hallway are all nouns.

A singular noun is any noun that names a single object. The examples above are all singular nouns. A plural noun names two or more objects. Examples of plural nouns include flowers, boxes, children, and hands. When you change a singular noun into a plural noun, there are some vital rules you must follow in order to use correct spelling. Let's look at those rules.

Regular Nouns

For most nouns there is one simple rule to follow: add the letter -s to the end of a singular noun. From the examples given earlier in this lesson, the word dog will become dogs in the plural form, and chair will become chairs. Here are some other examples:

  • desk becomes desks
  • cat becomes cats
  • hallway becomes hallways

Different Endings

There are many words that, either for phonetic reasons or spelling reasons, it is not realistic to just add -s to the end of a word to make it plural. For some words, you must add an -es. Many words that end with -s, -sh, -ss, -z, -x, or -ch, need to have -es added at the end to make them plural nouns. For example, the singular word class becomes classes. Take a look at these additional examples:

  • fox becomes foxes
  • dish becomes dishes
  • trench becomes trenches

In addition to those endings, some words that end with the letter -o also add an -es. For example, tomato becomes tomatoes, echo becomes echoes and potato becomes potatoes. However, this is not the rule for all words ending with -o. Some words only add an -s. The word zero becomes zeros, zoo becomes zoos, and solo becomes solos. For these words, you just have to learn which ones follow which rule.

Another rule for nouns with specific endings is for words that end with the letter -y. For these nouns, change the y to an i and add -es. Here are some examples of this rule:

  • baby becomes babies
  • city becomes cities
  • lady becomes ladies

However, note that not all nouns ending with -y follow this rule. For example, the word hallway ends with a vowel before the letter -y, so you do not have to change the -y. You simply add an -s to make it hallways. Additional examples of this are as follows:

  • tray becomes trays
  • boy becomes boys
  • monkey becomes monkeys

Lastly, nouns that end with an -f or -fe must also change their spelling. For these words, change the -f or -fe to a -v and then add -es. So shelf becomes shelves, calf becomes calves, and knife becomes knives.

It is important to note that when learning the mechanics of the English language, there are always exceptions to each rule. The same goes for rules for plural nouns. In general, follow these spelling changes, but there are some words that do not follow these rules. When in doubt, check the spelling in a dictionary.

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