ESL – Irregular plural nouns

8 November

Irregular plural nouns




In English, there are hundreds of nouns that don’t follow the standard rules for making a noun plural. There are no easy ways to remember these words, so they generally have to be memorised.

Some of the rarer irregular plurals are often misused, leading to the creation of variant forms, which usually encounter resistance at first but eventually make it into the language. For example, the plural of formula has traditionally been formulae, but formulas is now far more common, and few would call it incorrect.

Latinate plurals

Examples of some nouns retaining their plural forms from Latin and other languages:

singular plural
addendum addenda
alga algae
alumnus alumni
amoeba amoebae
antenna antennae
bacterium bacteria

-o becomes –oes

Examples of most nouns ending in –o adding an –s, but some take –es instead—for example:

singular plural
echo echoes
embargo embargoes
hero heroes
potato potatoes
tomato tomatoes
torpedo torpedoes

Changing vowel sounds

Examples of some nouns changing their vowel sound

singular plural
foot feet
goose geese
louse lice
man men
mouse mice
tooth teeth
woman women

-f becomes -ves

Examples of some nouns ending in –are pluralized by dropping the –and adding –ves:

singular plural
calf calves
elf elves
half halves
hoof hooves
knife knives
leaf leaves
life lives

-is becoming –es

Examples of some nouns ending in –is dropping the –is and adding –es:

singular plural
axis axes
analysis analyses
basis bases
crisis crises
diagnosis diagnoses
ellipsis ellipses
emphasis emphases

-ix becoming –ices

Examples of some nouns ending in –ix dropping the –ix and adding –ices:

singular plural
appendix appendices
index indices
matrix matrices

Unchanged plurals

A few nouns are unchanged in their plural forms:

singular plural
barracks barracks
deer deer
fish fish
gallows gallows
means means
offspring offspring
series series
sheep sheep
species species

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