How To Identify Irregular Plurals in English: Part 1

How To Identify Irregular Plurals in English: Part 1

Today, we will be looking at how you can identify Irregular Plurals in English. By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. Describe irregular plurals.
  2. List examples of irregular plurals.
  3. Identify irregular plurals in different sentences.

Now let’s begin;

In the previous lesson, we learnt that for the plural of most nouns we add s to the singular. However, there are some nouns that make their plural a little differently, because they do not follow the rules for forming plurals by adding –s or –es.

What Are Irregular Plurals in English?

Irregular-Plurals-in-English
Irregular-Plurals-in-English

Irregular plural nouns are nouns that do not become plural by adding -s or -es, as most nouns in the English language do.

When writing sentences, plural nouns do not have –a or –an.

Irregular nouns made their plural by changing vowels, changing the word, or adding a different ending:

Let’s look at the examples in the table below

SINGULAR PLURAL INCORRECT
man men mans
woman women womans
child children childs
mouse mice mouses


Below you’ll find guidelines and examples to help you better identify irregular plural nouns.

Nouns that end with a ‘hissing sound’ such as –ch, -sh,-s, -x or -z make their plurals by adding –es.

Examples

  • church = churches
  • boss = bosses
  • brush = brushes
  • watch = watches
  • inch = inches
  • bus = buses
  • box = boxes
  • business = businesses
  • fox = foxes
  • wash = washes
  • splotch = splotches
  • buzz = buzzes

There is one exception to this rule. If the -ch ending is pronounced with a ‘k’ then add -s (stomach = stomachs).
Some singular nouns ending in -s or -z require more than the -es to form their plural versions. To pluralize these nouns, you must double the -s or -z before adding the -es.

Examples

  • gas = gasses
  • fez = fezzes

Nouns that end in –o form their plurals in 2 ways. Some by adding –s or –es. You may either learn the common words, or use a dictionary to help guide you, as there are no rules for this.

Examples: By adding -s

  • solo = solos
  • radio = radios
  • stereo = stereos
  • banjo = banjos
  • dynamo = dynamos
  • photo = photos
  • zero = zeros
  • piano = piano
  • video = videos
  • kilo = kilos
  • Eskimo = Eskimos

Be sure to check out: How to Identify Irregular Plural Nouns – Part 2

Examples: By adding –es

  • hero = heroes
  • cargo = cargoes
  • buffalo = buffaloes
  • echo = echoes
  • mosquito = mosquitoes
  • potato = potatoes
  • torpedo = torpedoes
  • tomato = tomatoes
  • volcano = volcanoes

Nouns that end in –f generally form their plurals by changing the –f to –v and adding –es.

Examples

  • thief – thieves
  • calf = calves
  • elf = elves
  • half = halves
  • shelf = shelves
  • loaf = loaves
  • leaf = leaves
  • wolf = wolves
  • sheaf = sheaves
  • self = selves (yourselves, themselves, ourselves)

Nouns that end in -fe generally form their plurals by changing the –fe to –v and adding –es.

Examples

  • knife = knives
  • wife = wives
  •  life = lives

There are some exceptions where -s is added to nouns that end in –f.

Examples

  • belief = beliefs
  • roof = roofs
  • chief = chiefs
  • safe = safes
  • proof = proofs
  • gulf = gulfs
  • brief = briefs
  • surf = surfs
  • oaf = oafs
  • reef = reefs

Some nouns that end in –ff form their plural by adding –s.

Examples

  • sniff = sniffs
  • tiff = tiffs
  • cliff = cliffs
  • scoff = scoffs
  • stiff = stiffs
  • toff = toffs
  • sheriff – sheriffs

There are some exceptions regarding some nouns that end in –f. They have two forms of their plural.

Examples

  • scarf = scarfs or scarves
  • brother = brothers or brethren
  • dwarf = dwarfs or dwarves
  • cloth = cloths or clothes
  • hoof = hoofs or hooves
  • shot = shots or shot
  • die = dies or dice
  • wharf = wharfs or wharves
  • staff = staffs or staves
  • penny = pennies or pence
  • genius = geniuses or genii
  • handkerchief = handkerchiefs or handkerchieves
  • pea = peas or pease

There is one exception to the rule regarding the word fish. The plural of fish is usually fish, however, in biology fishes is used to refer to multiple species of fish.

Nouns that end in –y, before which there is a no vowel form their plural by changing the –y into –i before adding –ies.

Examples

  • baby = babies
  • family = families
  • community = communities
  • berry = berries
  • memory = memories
  • body = bodies
  • dairy = dairies
  • lily = lilies
  • lady = ladies
  • army = armies
  • factory = factories
  • fly = flies
  • city = cities
  • lorry = lorries
  • company = companies

Nouns that end in –y, before which there is a vowel (-ay, ey, oy). They form their plurals by adding –s only.

Examples

  • donkey = donkeys
  • day = days
  • toy = toys
  • kidney = kidneys
  • boy = boys
  • tray = trays
  • guy = guys
  • key = keys
  • turkey = turkeys
  • holiday = holidays
  • jockey = jockeys
  • kidney = kidneys
  • pulley = pulleys
  • journey = journeys
  • buoy – buoys
  • chimney – chimneys

Next Lesson: NOUNS: IRREGULAR PLURALS – PART 2

Close Menu