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Regular Plural Nouns in English

Prototypical English nouns have both singular and plural forms. Singular nouns refer to one “person, place, thing, or idea” while plural nouns refer to two or more “people, places, things, or ideas.” Regular nouns are predictable, taking an -s suffix to form the plural. Irregular nouns are unpredictable, following other rules to form the plural. Learn how to form and pronounce the plural forms of regular English nouns with the following guide.

Forming Regular Plural Nouns

To form the plural of most nouns in English, simply add the suffix -s to the end of the noun. For example, the following list includes the singular and plural forms of some common English nouns:

  • book – books
  • table – tables
  • boy – boys
  • girl – girls

For nouns that end in an -s, -z, -x, -ch, or -sh, add the suffix -es to the end of the noun. For example:

  • bush – bushes
  • hex – hexes
  • match – matches
  • coach – coaches

For nouns spelled with a final y preceded by a consonant, change the y to an i and then add the ­-es suffix. For example:

  • butterfly – butterflies
  • sky – skies
  • party – parties
  • theory – theories

For most nouns spelled with a final f or fe, change the f or fe to a ve and then add the -s suffix. For example:

  • wolf – wolves
  • elf – elves
  • loaf – loaves
  • shelf – selves

However, some nouns spelled with a final f have two acceptable forms. For example:

  • dwarf – dwarfs or dwarves
  • hoof – hoofs or hooves
  • scarf – scarfs or scarves
  • staff – staffs or staves
  • wharf – wharfs or wharves

For nouns spelled with a final o preceded by a vowel, simply add the -s suffix. For example:

  • duo – duos
  • radio – radios
  • stereo – stereos
  • studio – studios

For nouns of foreign origin including most musical terms that end with an o, also add the -s suffix. For example:

  • kimono – kimonos
  • piano – pianos
  • solo – solos
  • taco – tacos

For most nouns spelled with a final o preceded by a consonant, add the -es suffix. For example:

  • echo – echoes
  • hero – heroes
  • potato – potatoes
  • tomato – tomatoes

However, some nouns spelled with a final o preceded by a consonant take either the -s or the -es suffix. For example:

  • avocado – avocados or avocadoes
  • ghetto – ghettos or ghettoes
  • hobo – hobos or hoboes
  • tornado – tornados or tornadoes

Pronouncing Regular Plural Nouns

Although all regular English nouns take either an -s or -es suffix in the plural, the suffix is pronounced differently depending on the last sound of the noun.  For nouns that end in an [s] (s, se, ce), [z] (z, ze), [š] (sh), [č] (ch), or [ĵ] (j, dge) sound, then the plural suffix is pronounced as [ez] (es). For example:

  • ace – aces
  • smudge – smudges
  • curse – curses
  • squash – squashes

For nouns that end in a voiceless [p] (p, pe), [t] (t, tt, te), [k] (k, ck, ke), [f] (f, gh), [θ] (th), or [h] (h) sound, then the plural suffix is pronounced as [s] (s). For example:

  • mat – mats
  • rock – rocks
  • cape – capes
  • digraph – digraphs

For nouns that end in a voiced [m] (m, me), [n] (n, ne), [ng] (ng), [b (b, be), [d] (d), [g] (g, ge), [v] (v, ve), [ð] (th), [w] (w), [r] (r, re), or [l] (l, ll, le) sound or any vowel sound, then the plural suffix is pronounced as [z] (z). For example:

  • baby – babies
  • floor – floors
  • joy – joys
  • pew – pews

Regular English nouns take either an -s or -es suffix in the plural. However, the spelling and pronunciation of the regular plural noun varies depending on the particular noun.

References

Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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