Irregular plurals

Rules concerning the formation of plural nouns in English language are quite similar to those in Spanish. However, as you may well know, there are cases in which these rules are not followed, resulting in irregular plurals. In any case, today we are going to start with the basic rules and then we will move on to the exceptions.

In English, plurals are normally formed by adding -s to the noun, however, it depends on how the noun ends. Let’s see the different possibilities:

  • Most nouns form the plural by adding -s: dogs, packs, cars, tickets, trains, chairs
  • When the singular noun ends in s, x, z, ch, sh the plural is formed by adding -es: buses, taxes, wishes, witches. This also happens with some nouns (but not all) finishing in -o: tomatoes, potatoes, torpedoes.
  • If the singular noun ends in a consonant and -y, we remove the “y” and we make the plural by adding -ies: flies, spies, babies, cities, pennies (if it ends in a vowel and -y, then we just add -s: ashtrays, days, boys)
  • If the singular noun finishes in -f or -fe, the plural is formed by dropping the f and adding -ves: wolf/wolves, wife/wives, knife/knives, elf/elves, half/halves. However, if the f is preceded by two vowels, then we just add -s to form the plural: chiefs, spoofs

At the same time, we can find some cases of irregular plurals. Many of them are basic words like:

  • Women (pl. for woman)
  • Men (pl. for man)
  • Children (pl. for child)
  • People (pl. for person)
  • Teeth (pl. for tooth)
  • Feet (pl. for foot)
  • Mice (pl. for mouse)
  • Geese (pl. for goose)

Some nouns have the same form in singular and plural: sheep, deer, craft, fish, species.

Many technical terms, normally of Latin or Greek origin, form the plural in a different way:

  • Nouns of Latin origin: antenna/antennae, cactus/cacti, octopus/octopi, datum/data, referendum/referenda, alga/algae, alumnus/alumni.
  • Nous of Greek origin: crisis/crises, analysis/analyses

We hope you found this information useful, now let’s practice a little:

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