Understanding Plural Nouns

I’m a grammar nerd. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s a bad thing. One of my biggest pet peeves is improper pluralization of a noun. If you read my post about apostrophes, you know I strongly believe that an apostrophe is never (never, ever, ever) used to make a word plural. I hold strong to that belief even when we’re talking about acronyms (DVDs, RSVPs), decades (1990s), and words ending in vowels (dos). So how do you know how to make a word plural? Some are obvious, but others certainly are not.

Singular Noun Not Ending in S, SH, CH, X, Y, or Z

For (most) all singular nouns ending in letters other than s, sh, ch, x, y, or z, (though I should note and can be tricky) you simply add an to the end of the word to make it plural:

  • Alpacas
  • Dogs
  • Socks

Singular Noun Ending in S, SH, CH, or X

For singular nouns ending in s, sh, ch, or x, you need to add es to the end of the word to make it plural:

  • Bosses
  • Dishes
  • Latches
  • Boxes

Singular Noun Ending in Y

For singular nouns ending in y, you have two possible solutions, depending on the word. #1: If the letter immediately before the is a vowel, you’ll simply add an to make the word plural. #2: If, however, the letter immediately before the is a consonant, you’ll drop the and add ies to make the word plural.

Examples of rule #1:

  • Valley becomes valleys
  • Monkey becomes monkeys

Examples of rule #2:

  • Baby becomes babies
  • Lady becomes ladies

Singular Noun Ending in Z (and Some Ending in S)

In some cases, singular nouns ending in or require that you double the letter and then add es to make the word plural. Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule on this one, so you just have to remember the individual words or look them up as needed. Some examples include:

  • Quiz becomes quizzes
  • Gas becomes gasses

However, this isn’t always true:

  • Blitz becomes blitzes
  • Bus becomes buses

Irregular Nouns

The English language is filled with countless exceptions to the rules, and plural nouns are no exception to that! A whole list of irregular nouns exists, and they can be tricky to keep track of. I certainly won’t list them all for you, but here are some examples:

  • Mouse becomes mice
  • Cactus becomes cacti
  • Analysis becomes analyses
  • Criterion becomes criteria
  • Child becomes children
  • Man becomes men
  • Tooth becomes teeth
  • Potato becomes potatoes
  • Wolf becomes wolves

Finally, some words don’t change at all from singular to plural:

  • Sheep
  • Species
  • Deer
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