Inquire: Parties of Two or More
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
How could we even begin to comprehend life – a life depicted famously by William Shakespeare and lived by each of us – if we could not think in terms of plurality? Nouns can be singular and nouns can be plural. The challenge is knowing how to transform each singular noun into its plural counterpart. There are several ways to pluralize a noun, and the correct method depends on the noun itself.
In this lesson, we will explore the different rules of pluralization and take a look at some tricky exceptions you may encounter.
How do we turn singular nouns into plurals?
Watch: Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd
Read: Plural Forms of Singular Nouns
Nouns That End With…
To pluralize most singular nouns, you simply add an s to the end of the word.
dog = dogs
airplane = airplanes
television = televisions
Smith = Smiths
If the singular noun ends in an s, ch, or x, then you will add an es to the end.
glass = glasses
match = matches
tax = taxes
Davis = Davises
An exception to this rule applies if the ch ending produces a “k” sound, in which case you add only an s.
stomach = stomachs
monarch = monarchs
If the singular noun ends with y preceded by a consonant, you drop the y and add ies.
accessory = accessories
baby = babies
responsibility = responsibilities
theory = theories
If the singular noun ends with a y preceded by a vowel, then you simply add s.
ray = rays
toy = toys
runway = runways
week = weeks
Keep in mind that this rule applies to both common and proper nouns.
Kennedy = Kennedys
Murphy = Murphys
If the singular noun ends in an –f or –fe, drop the ending (-f or -fe) and add –ves.
calf = calves
knife = knives
loaf = loaves
wife = wives
There are exceptions to this rule.
chief = chiefs
cliff = cliffs
roof = roofs
There are several nouns in the English language that don’t follow any clear set rules when transitioning from singular to plural.
child = children
woman = women
tooth = teeth
person = people
ox = oxen
Further, there are a few instances of nouns not changing at all when they become plural.
Reflect: Your Personal Opinion on Irregular Plurals
Expand: More Rules for Pluralization
Ending in O
When a singular noun ends with the letter o, there isn’t a set formula to make the word plural. Some words require adding only an –s.
mango = mangos
piano = pianos
videos = videos
However, there are other words ending in –o that require adding an –es.
echo = echoes
hero = heroes
tomato = tomatoes
If uncertain, be sure to consult your dictionary.
The English language has taken several words from Latin or Greek. Thus, when these singular nouns are pluralized, they revert to their original languages.
alumnus = alumni
focus = foci
datum = data
larva = larvae
stimulus = stimuli
However, it has become acceptable for some Latin or Greek terms to take on an English format when transitioning to plural.
cactus = cacti or cactuses
index = indices or indexes
Singular or Plural
Some nouns may appear to be plural but are actually singular. You can tell by the verb conjugation required for a sentence to work.
For example, in the following sentences, billiards and news may appear plural, but their subsequent verbs (is) clearly indicate they are singular.
Billiards is a fun game to play.
The good news is I get an extra day off.
On the other hand, be sure to watch out for plural terms that represent a singular object. They are to be treated as plurals.
My pants are too small.
These scissors are not sharp.
Singular or Plural with Proper Nouns
A similar rule also applies to proper nouns, such as a film title or a corporation. Since the movie or company is a singular entity, it will be treated as singular even if the name implies that it’s plural.
Star Wars is my favorite movie.
General Motors is releasing its earnings report.
An exception to this rule applies when referring to sports teams, which are always to be treated as plurals, even if their common-noun name is singular.
This week’s heat is unbearable.
The Miami Heat are going to win the championship.
Interestingly, this same line of thinking does not apply to band names. The rule states that even though a band is a singular entity, if their name is plural, their subsequent verb will reflect as such.
The Beatles are the greatest band ever.
If the band name is singular, the verb tense should match.
Led Zeppelin is reuniting for one show.
While it is rare that an apostrophe is used to form a plural, there are a few exceptions where this takes place.
In the case of single letters, use an apostrophe before the –s to make it plural.
Robert received three A’s and two B’s on his report card.
Remember to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
Another area where the apostrophe is used for plural forms is with abbreviations. If the abbreviation requires periods, then you would use an apostrophe to pluralize.
The conference featured some of the top C.P.A.’s in the country.
I’m working toward two B.A.’s — one in English, and one in Art History.
However, if the abbreviation does not have periods, no apostrophe is needed.
The store is having a sale on TVs and DVDs.
License and Citations
Authored and curated by Oliver Shelton for The TEL Library. CC BY NC SA
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- Question 1 of 3
The correct plural form of child is…CorrectIncorrect
- Question 2 of 3
Apostrophes are never used to form plural nouns.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 3 of 3
Singular nouns ending with -o are always made plural by adding -es.CorrectIncorrect