Singular & Plural Nouns: Definitions, Rules & Examples

English nouns are inflected for grammatical number, meaning that if they are of the countable type, they generally have different forms for singular and plural.


This lesson discusses the variety of ways in which English plural nouns are formed from the corresponding singular forms, as well as various issues concerning the usage of singulars and plurals in English

Rule #1

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

For Examples:

  • car – cars
  • bag – bags
  • table – tables
  • house – houses
  • dog – dogs

Rule #2

Singular nouns that end in 's', 'x', 'z', 'ch', 'sh',or 'ss', form the plural by adding –es.

For Examples:

  • bus - buses
  • bench - benches
  • box - boxes
  • dish - dishes
  • truss - trusses
  • marsh - marshes
  • lunch - lunches
  • tax - taxes
  • blitz - blitzes
  • watch – watches

Excepting: 

  • fez – fezzes
  • gas –  gasses
  • quiz - quizzes
  • bus - busses 

Rule #3

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

For Examples:

  • half - halves
  • hoof - hooves
  • calf - calves
  • elf - elves
  • shelf - shelves
  • leaf - leaves
  • loaf - loaves
  • thief - thieves
  • wolf - wolves
  • life - lives
  • knife - knives
  • scarf - scarves
  • wife –  wives 

Excepting:

  • cuff - cuffs
  • knockoff - knockoffs
  • chef - chefs
  • belief - beliefs
  • roof - roofs
  • chief – chiefs


Rule #4

Nouns ending in -o:

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

For Examples:

  • radio - radios
  • stereo - stereos
  • video  – videos

Nouns that end in "o" preceded by a consonant are made plural by adding -es.

For Examples:

  • potato - potatoes
  • tomato - tomatoes
  • hero - heroes
  • echo - echoes
  • veto - vetoes
  • domino – dominoes

Excepting: 

  • piano - pianos
  • photo - photos
  • halo - halos
  • soprano – sopranos


Rule #5

Nouns ending in 'y':

When the 'y' follows a consonant, changing 'y' to 'i' and adding –es:

For Examples:

  • city - cities
  • candy - candies
  • country - countries
  • family - families
  • cherry - cherries
  • lady - ladies
  • puppy - puppies
  • party - parties

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

For Examples:

  • day - days
  • holiday - holidays
  • ray - rays
  • boy - boys
  • toy - toys
  • key - keys
  • donkey - donkeys

Rule #6

Changing the spelling of singular noun:

For Examples:

  • person - people
  • ox - oxen
  • man - men
  • woman - women
  • caveman - cavemen
  • policeman - policemen
  • child - children
  • tooth - teeth
  • foot - feet
  • goose - geese
  • mouse - mice
  • mouse – lice

Rule #7

Some nouns use the same singular and plural form:

For Examples:

  • aircraft - aircraft
  • barracks - barracks
  • deer - deer
  • gallows - gallows
  • moose - moose
  • salmon - salmon
  • hovercraft - hovercraft
  • spacecraft - spacecraft
  • series - series
  • species - species
  • means - means
  • offspring - offspring
  • deer - deer
  • fish - fish
  • sheep -  sheep

Rule #8

Some nouns are of Latin/Greek/French Origin:

For Examples:

Nouns of Latin Origin:

  • alumnus - alumni/alumnuses
  • apex - apices/apeces
  • appendix - appendices/ appendixes

Nouns of French Origin:

For Examples:

  • chateau - chateaux/chateaus
  • bureau - bureaux/ bureaus
  • tableau - tableaux/tableaus

Nouns of Greek Origin:

For Examples:

  • diagnosis - diagnoses
  • ellipsis - ellipses
  • hypothesis - hypotheses
  • oasis - oases


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Singular & Plural Nouns: Definitions, Rules & Examples

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