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How to Form Plural Nouns

If you are a native English speaker, you probably already know how to form plural nouns in English. But just because you know how to form plurals doesn’t mean you can articulate the rules. You can wow your grammar teacher by learning the rules for creating plurals for regular English nouns, but with the irregular nouns, memorization is key.

Regular plural nouns

Plain old garden-variety nouns form plurals by adding the letter s.

Examples of regular plurals
Singular Plural
xylophone xylophones
quintuplet quintuplets
worrywart worrywarts
nerd nerds
lollipop lollipops
eyebrow eyebrows

Singular nouns that end in s already, as well as singular nouns ending in sh, ch, and x form plurals by adding es.

Examples of regular plurals ending in -s and -ch
Singular Plural
grinch grinches
box boxes
kiss kisses
George Bush both George Bushes
mess messes
catch catches

If a noun ends in the letter y, and the letter before the y is a vowel (a, e, i, o, u), just add s.

Examples of regular plurals ending in a vowel plus y
Singular Plural
monkey monkeys
turkey turkeys
day days
boy boys
honey honeys
bay bays

If the noun ends in y but the letter before the -y is not a vowel, form the plural by changing the y to i and adding es.

Examples of regular plurals ending in a consonant plus -y
Singular Plural
sob story sob stories
unsolvable mystery unsolvable mysteries
a cute little ditty (it means song) cute little ditties
pinky pinkies
bat-filled belfry bat-filled belfries
tabby tabbies

Never change the spelling of a name when you make it plural. The plural of Sammy is Sammys, not Sammies.

Irregular plural nouns

This topic wouldn’t be any fun without irregulars, now would it? Okay, you’re right. Irregulars are always a pain. Here are some examples of common, irregular plurals.

Examples of irregular plurals
Singular Plural
knife knives
sheep sheep
man men
woman women
child children
deer deer

Listing all the irregular plurals is an impossible task. Check the dictionary for any noun plural that puzzles you.

Hyphenated plural nouns

If you intend to insult your relatives, you may as well do so with the correct plural form. Remember: Form the plural of hyphenated nouns by adding s or es to the important word, not to the add-ons. These words are all plurals:

  • Mothers-in-law

  • Brothers-in-law

  • Vice-presidents

  • Secretaries-general

  • Dogcatchers-in-chief

You may hear references to attorney generals. If you do, call the grammar police. An attorney general is a lawyer, not a military officer. Therefore, attorney is the important part of this title, and it's a noun. The general is a description — a reference to the rank of the attorney. To form a plural, you deal with the noun, not with the descriptive word. Therefore, you have one attorney general and two or more attorneys general.

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