IRREGULAR NOUN PLURALS
Have you ever wondered, for example, why the plural of wolf is wolves, and not wolfs? Well, in English there are many nouns that don’t follow the standard rules for pluralization. In this free English lesson, I will go through some of them and show you how irregular nouns form their plural forms.
As you know, most countable nouns have a regular plural in -s/-es. Irregular nouns form plurals in a number of different ways, for example, by changing a vowel or consonant sound or by adding an unusual ending.
Let’s focus first on vowel changes.
Some plurals are formed by changing the vowel sound.
So, for example you have:
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There are also irregular noun plurals in which there are changes of consonants.
With some nouns we change f to v, and then we add -s/-es.
calf – calves
life – lives
wife – wives
half – halves
loaf – loaves
wolf – wolves
knife – knives
shelf – shelves
leaf – leaves
thief – thieves
Some nouns ending in f or fe are regular, such as beliefs, chiefs, cliffs, safes.
There are also two nouns which form plural by adding -en.
child – children
ox – oxen
When we are talking about an amount of money, we use pence as the plural of penny.
Fifty-five pence, please.
Pennies are individual penny coins.
Person has two plurals: persons and people.
Authorized persons only may enter.
There were lots of people at the concert.
A people is a large group such as a nation.
The Scots are a fair-skinned people.
There are also some nouns which do not change in the plural.
Such nouns are aircraft, hovercraft, spacecraft; some nouns for animals – sheep, deer; and some kinds of fish – cod, salmon.
There are also a number of foreign words which have come into English from other languages, such as Latin and Greek, and these nouns have plural endings which are not so common in English. The only way you can learn them is to try to memorize them.
Foreign nouns ending in -on or -um form plural by changing -on/-um to -a.
criterion – criteria
curriculum – curricula
medium – media
phenomenon – phenomena
Foreign nouns ending in -a form plural by changing -a to -ae.
formula – formulas / formulae
alga – algae
Foreign nouns ending in -is form plural by changing -is to -es.
analysis – analyses
crisis – crises
hypothesis – hypotheses
Foreign nouns ending in -us form plural by changing -us to -i.
cactus – cacti / cactuses
nucleus – nuclei
stimulus – stimuli
But, remember, not every noun ending in on, um, or us has an irregular ending.