Plural Nouns. Free English Lesson with Test and Certificate.
Quick Plural Nouns study for SAT, IELTS, TESOL and other exams.
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How to use plural nouns in English
Welcome to the plural nouns lesson. This lesson includes more spelling rules than most of our lessons. There are many rules about plural nouns and, unfortunately, there are also many exceptions to the rules. Our lesson shows the most important rules, and the most important examples.
For example, if a subject is singular, its verb must also be singular. Similarly, if a subject is plural, its verb must also be plural. For example, you say, "the GIRL WORKS hard at school," but "the GIRLS WORK hard at school."
Your English lesson about plural nouns
Welcome to the Plural Nouns lesson! This lesson includes more spelling rules than most of our lessons. There are many rules about plural nouns, and unfortunately, there are also many exceptions to the rules.
Before we start to look at the many rules regarding plural nouns, let’s review subject verb agreement.
If a subject is singular, its verb must also be singular. Similarly, if a subject is plural, its verb must also be plural. In the present tense, nouns and verbs form plurals in opposite ways: nouns ADD an s to the singular form; verbs REMOVE the s from the singular form.
The girl works hard at school.
The girls work hard at school.
The plural form of most nouns is created simply by adding the letter s.
snake - snakes
ski - skis
bottle - bottles
cup - cups
pencil - pencils
desk - desks
sticker - stickers
window - windows
For nouns that end in ch, x, s, or s sounds, add es.
box - boxes
watch - watches
bus - buses
witch - witches
gas - gases
kiss - kisses
For nouns ending in f or fe, change f to v and add es.
wolf - wolves
wife - wives
leaf - leaves
life – lives
knife - knives
hoof - hooves
self - selves
elf - elves
There are, however, exceptions:
more than one dwarf = dwarfs
more than one roof = roofs
There are several nouns that have irregular plural forms. Plurals formed in this way are sometimes called mutated plurals.
child - children
woman - women
man - men
mouse - mice
goose - geese
person - people
Nouns ending in vowels like y or o do not have definite rules. However, most words that end in a consonant and the letter y, you'll need to change the y to an i and add es.
baby - babies
toy - toys (notice that we do not change y to an i here)
kidney - kidneys
gallery - galleries
reality - realities
This rule does not apply to proper nouns:
more than one Kennedy = Kennedys
Words that end in o are difficult because for some words we add es and for others, we just add s.
potato - potatoes
memo - memos
stereo - stereos
hero - heroes
cello - cellos
A few nouns have the same singular and plural forms.
sheep - sheep
deer - deer
series - series
species - species
For example, you could say: “There was a sheep in the field,” or “There were fifty sheep in the field.”
And, finally, there are nouns that maintain their Latin or Greek form in the plural:
nucleus - nuclei
syllabus - syllabi
focus - foci
fungus - fungi
cactus - cacti (cactuses is also acceptable)
thesis - theses
crisis - crises*
phenomenon - phenomena
index - indices (indexes is acceptable)
appendix - appendices (appendixes is acceptable)
criterion - criteria
*Note the pronunciation of this word, crises: the second syllable sounds like ease.
Some nouns look like they are plural but they take a singular verb:
The news is bad.
Gymnastics is fun to watch.
Economics/mathematics/statistics is difficult.
Numerical expressions (numbers) are usually singular, but can be plural if the individuals within a group are acting individually:
Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money.
One-half of the faculty is retiring this summer.
Fifty percent of the students have voted already.
We use have (the plural verb) because the members of this group are acting individually.
Other nouns might seem to be singular but they are written in the plural form and always use a plural verb:
My pants are torn.
Her scissors were stolen.
The glasses have slipped down his nose again.
When a noun names the title of something - or is a word being used as a word - it is singular whether the word takes a singular form or not.
Faces is the name of the new restaurant downtown.
Zinger and Sons is the best hardware store in the city.
Postcards is my favorite novel.
More plural nouns exercises
There are so called collective nouns, which are singular when we think of them as groups and plural when we think of the individuals acting within the whole (which happens sometimes, but not often).
Audience (The audience loved the play)
Band (The band we very noisy)
Class (The class were allowed to leave school early)
Committee (The committee voted for a new leader)
Crowd (The crowd loved the band)
Dozen (I bought a dozen eggs)
Family (His family gave him a surprise party)
Flock (The flock of sheep escaped from the field)
Group (A group of people were waiting for the train)
Heap (Someone left a heap of rubbish outside our house)
Herd (The farmer loved his herd of cows)
Jury (The jury said she was not guilty)
Public (The public voted for a new government)
Staff (The staff all got a pay rise)
Team (The team won the silver medal)
One of the (One of the teachers is on holiday)
As an example of how this works, if we're talking about eggs, we could say "A dozen is probably not enough." But if we're talking about a party with our friends, we could say, "A dozen are coming over this afternoon." Or, we could say the Tokyo String Quartet is “one of the best string ensembles in the world”, but we could also say “the Beatles were some of the most famous singers in history.”
Generally, band names and musical groups take singular or plural verbs depending on the form of their names. In other words, does the name end with an s?
The Rolling Stones are one of the best groups of all time.
Metallica is my favorite band.
Another collective noun is ‘the number’ or ‘a number’.
Note that when we use the phrase ‘the number’ it is a singular collective noun.
"The number of applicants is steadily increasing."
"A number," on the other hand, is a plural form:
There are several students in the lobby. A number are here to see the president.
Collective nouns are countable nouns, so they can be pluralized.
A university has several athletic teams and classes.
The word following the phrase “one of the” will always be plural.
One of the reasons we won is because we worked harder than the other team.
One of the students in this room is responsible.
Notice that in the above examples the verb ("is") agrees with “one”, which is singular, and not with the object of the preposition, which is always plural.
When a family name (a proper noun) is pluralized, we almost always simply add an "s".
So we go to visit the Smiths, the Kennedys, the Grays, etc. When a family name ends in s, x, ch, sh, or z, however, we form the plural by added -es, as in the Marches, the Joneses, the Maddoxes, the Bushes, the Rodriguezes.
Note. Do not form a family name plural by using an apostrophe. We only use the apostrophe to create possessive forms.
When a proper noun ends in an "s" with a hard "z" sound, we don't add any ending to form the plural:
The Chambers are coming to dinner (not the Chamberses)
The Hodges used to live here (not the Hodgeses).
However, there are exceptions to this. We say "The Joneses are coming over."
The names of companies and other organizations are usually regarded as singular, regardless of their ending. For example,
General Motors has announced its summer lineup of new vehicles.
The names of sports teams, on the other hand, are treated as plurals, regardless of the form of that name.
The Yankees are a great organization.
The Utah Jazz have hired a new coach.
Singular Subjects, Plural Predicates, etc.
We frequently run into a situation in which a singular subject is linked to a plural predicate:
My favorite breakfast is cereal with fruit, milk, orange juice, and toast.
Sometimes, too, a plural subject can be linked to singular predicate.
In these situations, remember that the number (singular or plural) of the subject, not the predicate (verb), determines the form of the verb.
It’s story time
Now that we’ve learned a lot about plural nouns, let’s see how they are used in a short story. As you read the following story, pay attention to how the plural nouns are used.
There were students from all over the world in Jeffrey’s English class. They were from countries such as Brazil, China, Russia, Turkey, and Japan to name a few. Each student had different life experiences to share, but they all had the same goal. They wanted to improve their English. The group was very hard working and supportive of each other.
All of the teachers at the school except for one were native speakers. They specialized in conversation and fluency which was exactly what most of the students needed.
This was a problem for Jeffrey as well as many of his friends. From a very early age, many children from all over the world were taught English grammar. But unfortunately, most classes were not taught in English, and speaking skills, listening skills, and fluency were areas that were not taught well.
At Solutions English School, Jeffrey realized that this issue was common with people from all over the world. All of his friends could do well on an English test, but if you asked any of them to have a conversation in English it would not go well. He remembered how excited he was when he heard that Solutions was going to teach conversation. It was the best news he had heard in a long time.
Jeffrey was proud that he had always done well on all of his English tests in school, but now he wanted to be able to watch movies and TV in English, and most importantly, he realized that if he wanted a career in international business, he would need to be able to speak English clearly and naturally.
That’s the end of the lesson on plural nouns.
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