English Plurals Simplified

There are so many rules for English plurals. I remember when I was first learning it how much it confused me. In this post I want to make them as easy for you as possible.

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Regular English Plurals

Adding Just An “-s”

Most nouns take an “-s” at the end to make them plural:

one pen – two pens

one lion – three lions

Nouns ending on a vowel + “-y” only gets an “-s” in the plural:

boy – boys

key – keys

If a noun ends on a vowel + “-o”, you just add an “-s” to make it plural:

radio – radios

zoo – zoos

piano – pianos

canto – cantos

photo – photos

zero – zeros

cello – cellos (can also be celli)

halo – halos

Nouns That Get An “-es”

If a noun ends on a consonant + “-y”, the “y” changes to “i” and you add “-es”:

baby – babies

city –  cities

When a noun ends on “-fe” or “-f”, you change the “f” to “v” and add “-es”:

wife – wives

leaf – leaves

If a noun ends on “-sh”, “-ch”, “-ss” or “-x”. you just add “es”:

match – matches

fish – fishes

class – classes

box – boxes

Nouns ending on a consonant + “-o” gets an “-es” at the end in the plural form:

potato – potatoes

tomato – tomatoes

hero – heroes

torpedo – torpedoes

veto – vetoes

There are some exceptions to words ending on “-o”. These words can either take “-es” or “-s”:

volcano – volcanos or volcanoes

Sometimes if a noun ends on “-s” or “-z”, you should double the “s” or “z” before adding “-es”:

fez – fezzes

gas – gasses (gases is also acceptable)

Irregular English Plurals

Some plurals in English do not follow the normal patterns that I outlined above. The good news is that there are not too many of them and in some cases there are some rules as to how they change.

Irregular Plurals With Rules

Nouns ending on “-us”: the “us” change to “i”

focus – foci (can also be focuses)

nucleus – nuclei

cactus – cacti

radius – radii (can also be radiuses)

fungus – fungi

alumnus – alumni

octopus – octopi (can also be octopi)

hippopotamus – hippopotami (can also be hippopotamuses)

If a noun ends on “-is” the “is” changes to “es”:

analysis – analyses

crisis – crises

thesis – theses

axis – axes 

When a noun ends on “-on”, the “on” changes to “a”:

phenomenon – phenomena

criterion – criteria

Nouns ending on “-um”: the “um” changes to “a”:

datum – data

memorandum – memoranda

bacterium – bacteria

stratum – strata

curriculum – curricula (also curriculums)

If a noun ends on “-ex” or “-ix” that ending falls away and you add either “-ces” or “-xes” (both are correct):

index – indices or indexes

appendix – appendices or appendix (the latter is used in the medical field)

vortex – vortices or vortexes

Nouns ending on “-eau” gets either a “-z” or an “-s” at the end:

plateau – plateaux/plateaus

tableau – tableaux/tableaus

Words containing a preposition: the word before the preposition becomes plural:

sister-in-law – sisters-in-law

lady-in-waiting – ladies-in-waiting

hanger-on – hangers-on

runner-up – runners-up

looker-on – lookers on

Abbreviations are made plural by adding “-s”:



Irregular Plurals Without Rules

Unfortunately there are some English plurals that do not follow a rule. These you would have to learn by heart. They can be divided into three categories namely, a vowel changes, the word changes completely or there is no change at all.

Change of vowel:

man – men

foot – feet

tooth – teeth

goose – geese

woman – women

Complete change of the noun:

child – children

person – people

mouse – mice

die – dice

ox – oxen

person – people

penny – pence

Some nouns do not change when they are used in the plural. The way they are treated grammatically is the only thing that changes

swine     trout     sheep    aircraft     hovercraft     watercraft     spacecraft     bison     series     tuna     moose     buffalo     shrimp     species     deer

One word that upsets the applecart is: “fish” technically the plural is “fish” however in some contexts it is “fishes”. Here are some more information on “fish” vs “fishes”.

Something Important to Note About English Plurals

Note that you never make a word plural by adding an apostrophe before the added ending, for example:

NOT boy’s

BUT boys

Plurals in English Conclusion

I hope that this post can help to demystify English plurals.


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