Let's look at the basics for forming and spelling plural nouns, which can be tricky. There are many exceptions, however there are several tips and tricks that will really help you. Before we get started, let's quickly review both singular and plural nouns:
Singular nouns name one (single) person, place, thing, animal or idea.
Plural nouns name more than one person, place thing, animal or idea.
(By the way, for an overview of all the different types of nouns, click here).
Normally, the plural of a noun is formed by adding -s:
Although we add -s to change most singular nouns to plural nouns, there are many nouns that have a different ending in the plural.
I know what your thinking...aaarrghh! The reason many of these have spelling changes is to make them easier to pronounce. For example, if the plural of "bus" were "buss" it would either sound strange or we'd have the same sound. "Buses" is much easier to pronounce.
Luckily, there are a few simple tips and tricks (otherwise known as rules) that will help you:
Look at the end of the word and if it ends in the letters above, you add an -es.
If a noun ends with a consonant plus a -y, then change the -y to an -i and add -es.
* Did you remember there are 21 consonant letters in the English written alphabet: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z.]
* Be sure to understand that you need a consonant plus a -y at the end of the word. You need both otherwise if the word ends in just a -y it will be regular. [e.g., boy — boys (not boies)]
If a noun ends with either -f or -fe, change these letters to a -v and add -es.
*Note: Unfortunately, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Sorry, you'll have to memorize them (see some examples below under irregular plural nouns).
Example: roof — roofs (not rooves)
The chart below can help you remember these few rules.
Some nouns just don't follow any of the rules above when changing from singular to plural. I know, bummer. You'll have to memorize these or consult your good friend, Miss Dictionary, if you're unsure.
Some nouns that end in -o add an -es. You'll have to check your dictionary to be sure of the spelling.
*Remember you normally just add an -s (e.g., euro — euros, video — videos)
Look carefully at these as sometimes there is only one letter that's different (e.g., man, men). The reason that some of these nouns completely change their spelling is that some of these words are borrowed from Latin or Greek.
Here are some examples:
For some nouns, there are two different plural forms. For example:
We use the following always in the plural form. Many of these things are a single item that has two connected parts. For example, clothing items that cover the bottom and have two parts for each leg (e.g. pants, shorts, pantyhose). Also, some tools that have two blades or parts are plural.
Clothes: pants, trousers, jeans, leggings, shorts, tights, pantyhose, stockings, pajamas
For the eyes: glasses, goggles, binoculars, sunglasses
tools: scissors, tweezers, pliers, tongs
possessions / ownership: riches, belongings, earnings, valuables
Note: We often say a "pair of" : pair of jeans / a pair of pants / a pair of glasses / a pair of scissors
Finally, be careful not to confuse plural nouns with possessive nouns.
Remember that the possessive uses an apostrophe + -s after the noun. Plural nouns do not use an apostrophe.