Chapter 1-2-2: Noun Plurals

Grammar > Parts of Speech > Nouns > Noun Plurals

The Basics

Most nouns change their form to indicate number by adding "-s" or "-es", as illustrated in the following pairs of sentences:

When Matthew was small, he rarely told the truth if he thought he was going to be punished.

Many people do not believe that truths are self-evident.

As they walked through the silent house, they were startled by an unexpected echo.

I like to shout into the quarry and listen to the echoes that return.

He tripped over a box left carelessly in the hallway.

Since we are moving, we will need many boxes.

Three Complex Plural Forms

1. Whenever a noun follows the words "each" and "every," use the singular.

Every shoplifters shoplifter that gets caught will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Each classic books book that you read will serve you well during casual conversation.

2. Whenever a noun follows the words "one of," use the plural.

One of the employee employees has a good suggestion that we should consider.

3. Some nouns are always in a plural form. This is usually because the component object has two (a pair) or more parts associated with it. When conjugating with these words, use a plural verb. Here is a list of some of the more common—and some of the more peculiar—nouns that always appear in plural form. Can you guess what the ones with an asterisk beside them mean?:

Noun Plurals That Can Be Used with "Pair of...:"





goggles *




pliers *






Other Examples of Noun Plurals:

amends *

annals *


cahoots *




dregs *



jitters *

loggerheads *

outskirts *

premises *



remains *



shenanigans *

smithereens *




Note: some of these words may be plural-only with one meaning and singular/plural with other meanings. Take the word "glasses" versus "glass," for example.

I can't find my glasses.

The aquarium is made of six-inch glass walls.

There are other nouns which form the plural by changing the last letter before adding "s". Some words ending in "f" form the plural by deleting "f" and adding "ves," and words ending in "y" form the plural by deleting the "y" and adding "ies," as in the following pairs of sentences:

The harbour at Marble Mountain has one wharf.

There are several wharves in Halifax Harbour.

Warsaw is their favourite city because it reminds them of their courtship.

The vacation my grandparents won includes trips to twelve European cities.

The children circled around the headmaster and shouted, "Are you a mouse or a man?"

The audience was shocked when all five men admitted that they were afraid of mice.

Table: Some Irregular Plural Nouns in English

Other nouns form the plural irregularly. Unfortunately, these usually have to be memorized. Here is a summary of some of the irregular plural nouns in English:

* Can you guess what the words with an asterisk beside them mean?

Some Humor

Why English is hard to learn

We'll begin with box; the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox is oxen, not oxes,
One fowl is a goose, and two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose is never called meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a house full of mice;
But the plural of house is houses, not hice,
The plural of man is always men,
But the plural of pan is never pen.

If I speak of a foot, and you show me two feet,
And I give you a book, would a pair be a beek?
If one is a tooth, and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't two booths be called beeth?

If the singular's this and the plural is these,
Should the plural of kiss be ever called keese?

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his, and him;
But imagine the feminine ... she, shish, and shim!


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Attribution information for this page: Written by Chris Berry, Allen Brizee, Jamie BridgePage keywords: Persons versus People / People versus Persons, rules for pluralization, pluralization rules, irregular plurals, irregular noun pluralsPageID: eslid65933