Singular number is used when the noun refers to one item. Plural number is used when the noun refers to more than one item.Countable nouns have both singular and plural forms.Uncountable nouns and mass nouns do not normally have a plural form. See Types of noun for more on the types of noun.The regular plural ending of an English noun is -s.These are the exceptions to the normal pattern:
|singular noun ending||plural noun ending|
|-s, -ss, -ch, -x, -zz||-es|
|-o||-s or -es|
|consonant + y||-ies|
|vowel + y||-s|
|-f|| -s or -ves|
|hoof||hoofs or hooves|
|dwarf||dwarfs or dwarves|
Irregular pluralsSome nouns have two plural forms.Some of them have the same form in the singular and plural.
A few change a vowel to form the plural.
|a sheep||ten sheep|
|a deer||seven deer|
Some nouns form the plural with -en.Since it is not possible to give more than a selection of the irregular forms, you should check in a dictionary if you are in doubt. If the dictionary does not show the plural form, then you can assume that it is regular.Compound nouns normally form the plural by adding -s to the last word of the compound.
There are a few exceptions:A compound noun formed from a noun and an adverb makes the first word plural.
|a games console||three games consoles|
|a bookcase||two bookcases|
|an Indian take-away||two Indian take-aways|
Compound nouns with woman as the first word make both words plural.
|a passer-by||several passers-by|
A compound word which ends in -ful normally adds -s after -ful, but there is an alternative form with the -s following the base noun.
|a woman doctor||several women doctors|
|a woman driver||most women drivers|
|a cupful||three cupfuls/cupsful|
|a spoonful||two spoonfuls/spoonsful|
Plural nouns with singular referenceSome nouns referring to clothes and tools where two equal parts are joined together, e.g. trousers, binoculars, and tongs, are treated as being plural and are followed by a verb in the plural.
To talk about one of these items we can use the expression a pair of…
- My shorts are dirty.
- The scissors are on the table.
To talk about more than one we talk about however many pairs of…
- John bought a pair of jeans.
- Martina bought five pairs of tights.
- When they are used as ordinary numbers, words such as dozen and million have no plural form.
When they are used to mean a large number, they do have a plural form, which can be used as a partitive.
|nine million stars||two dozen glasses|
- There are millions of pebbles on the beach.
- I saw dozens of children in the playground.
Foreign pluralsNouns that have come into English from foreign languages can:
- keep the plural form of the language they come from.
|an axis||two axes|
|a crisis||two crises|
- have plurals formed according to the rules for plural in English.
|a thesaurus||several thesauruses|
| ||(instead of thesauri)|
- have two plurals: one from the foreign language and the other formed according to the rules for plural formation in English. The foreign plural is usually kept for scientific or specialized use.
|an index||some indexes/indices|
|a formula||some formulas/formulae|