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Plural Noun Rules for English

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

This lesson focuses on the various ways to form plural nouns in English. The method for forming the plural usually depends on the final letter of the singular version of the noun.

Understanding Plural Forms

Forming the plural version of nouns is not difficult, but there are several rules to consider in writing the plural form. Plural means to have more than one noun. Nouns name people, places, or things, and most of the time, plural nouns are formed by adding an -s or -es. This rule does not apply in several cases, but the rules for creating plural nouns are easy to understand. With practice, forming plural nouns will become easier.

Forming Plurals

The plural of kiss is kisses.
The plural of kiss is kisses

Most nouns are made plural by adding -s to the end of the singular form.

girl, girls

train, trains

Remember that we said there would be some exceptions? Here is the first exception to the add an -s rule. Look at what happens when a word ends in 'f'.

The plural form of some nouns that end in 'f' or 'fe' is made by changing the ending to -ves.

leaf, leaves

life, lives

An exception to this rule is that if a word ends in 'ff', the plural is formed by adding only -s.

cuff, cuffs

knockoff, knockoffs

Singular nouns that end in 's', 'sh', 'x', or 'ch', form the plural by adding -es

kiss, kisses

brush, brushes

church, churches

box, boxes

Typically, nouns that end in 'o' preceded by a vowel are made plural by adding -s.

radio, radios

igloo, igloos

Nouns that end in 'o' preceded by a consonant, however, form the plural by adding -es. This is another one of those exceptions to the rule.

potato, potatoes

hero, heroes

Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are two or more words that function together as a unit. There are two different ways to form plurals of compound nouns.

When two are more nouns form the compound word (regardless of whether the compound noun uses a hyphen), an -s is added to the last word to form the plural.

city-states

bucket seats

When a noun is joined with other parts of speech to form a compound word, an -s is added to the noun to form the plural.

passersby

brothers-in-law

Nouns Ending in Y

Some words change their spelling to form the plural version. When a word ends in 'y', the 'y' is changed to -ies when the 'y' follows a consonant.

supply, supplies

beauty, beauties

When the 'y' follows a vowel, the plural is formed by retaining the 'y' and adding -s.

day, days

valley, valleys

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