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The category of number.

English countable nouns have two numbers Ч the singularandthe plural.

The main types of the plural forms of English nouns are as follows:


I. 1. The general rule for forming the plural of English nouns is by adding the ending ‑s (-es) to the singular; ‑s is pronounced in different ways:

[Iz] after sibilants: noses, horses, bridges.

[z] after voiced consonants other than sibilants and after vowels: flowers, beds, doves, bees, boys.

[s] after voiceless consonants other than sibilants: caps, books, hats, cliffs.

2.If the noun ends in ‑s, ‑ss, ‑x, ‑sh, ‑ch, or ‑tch, the plural is formed by adding ‑es to the singular:


bus Ч buses

glass Ч glasses

box Ч boxes

brush Ч brushes

bench Ч bencftes

match Ч matches


3. If the noun ends in ‑y preceded by a consonant, у is changed into i before ‑es.

fly Ч flies

army Ч armies

lady Ч ladies


In proper names, however, the plural is formed by adding the ending ‑s to the singular: Mary, Marys.


N o t e. Ч If the final ‑y is preceded by a vowel the plural is formed by simply

adding ‑s to the singular.


day Ч days

play Ч plays

key Ч keys

monkey Ч monkeys

toy Ч toys

boy Ч boys


4. If the noun ends in ‑o preceded by a consonant, the plural is generally formed by adding ‑es. Only a few nouns ending in ‑o preceded by a consonant form the plural in ‑s.


cargo Ч cargoes

hero Ч heroes

potato Ч potatoes

echo Ч echoes

b u t: piano Ч pianos

solo Ч solos

photo Ч photos


All nouns ending in ‑o preceded by a vowel form the plural in ‑s and not in ‑es.


cuckoo Ч cuckoos

portfolio Ч portfolios


There are a few nouns ending in ‑o which form the plural both in ‑s and ‑es:


mosquito Ч mosquitos or mosquitoes


5. With certain nouns the final voiceless consonants are changed into the corresponding voiced consonants when the noun takes the plural form.

(a) The following nouns ending in ‑f (in some cases followed by a mute e) change it into v (both in spelling and pronunciation) in the plural:


wife Ч wives

thief Ч thieves

knife Ч knives

calf Ч calves

life Ч lives

half Ч halves

sheaf Ч sheaves

shelf Ч shelves

leaf Ч leaves

wolf Ч wolves


There are some nouns ending in ‑f which have two forms in the plural:


scarf Ч scarfs or scarves

wharf Ч wharfs or wharves


(b) Nouns ending in ‑th [T] after long vowels change it into [D] in pronunciation (which does not affect their spelling).


bath [bRT] Ч baths [bRDz]

path [pRT] Ч paths [pRDz]

oath [quT] Ч oaths [quDz]


But [T] is always retained after consonants (including r) and short vowels:


smith Ч smiths [smITs]

month Ч months [mAnTs]

myth Ч myths [mITs]

birth Ч births [bWTs]

health Ч healths [helTs]


(c) One noun ending in [s] changes it into [z] (in pronunciation):


house [haus] Ч houses ["hauzIz]

II. The plural forms of some nouns are survivals of earlier formations.

1. There are seven nouns which form the plural by changing the root vowel:


man Ч men

woman Ч women

foot Ч feet

tooth Ч teeth

goose Ч geese

mouse Ч mice

louse Ч lice


2. There are two nouns which form the plural in ‑en:


ox Ч oxen

child Ч children


N o t e. Ч The noun brother has, beside its usual plural form brothers,

another plural form brethren, which is hardly ever used in colloquial

language. It belongs to the elevated style and denotes people of the same

creed and not relationship.

The noun cow has, beside its usual plural form cows, a plural kine, which

sometimes occurs in poetry.


3. In some nouns the plural form does not differ from the singular: deer, sheep, swine, fish, trout.


III. Some words borrowed from Latin or Greek keep their Latin or Greek plural forms: e. g. phenomenon, phenomena; datum, data; crisis, crises; stimulus, stimuli; formula, formulae; index, indices. Some of these nouns have acquired English plural forms: memorandums, formulas, indexes, terminuses, etc.

The tendency to use the foreign plural is still strong in the technical language of science, but in fiction and colloquial English there is an evident inclination to give to certain words the regular English plural forms in ‑s. Thus in some cases two plural forms are preserved (formulae, formulas; antennae, antennas).


IV. In compound nouns the plural is formed in different ways.

1. As a rule a compound noun forms the plural by adding ‑s to the head-word:


editor-in-chief Ч editors-in-chief

brother-in-law Ч brothers-in-law

looker-on Ч lookers-on


2. In some compound nouns the final element takes the plural form:


lady-bird Ч lady-birds


3. If there is no noun-stem in the compound, ‑s is added to the last element:


forget-me-not Ч forget-me-nots

merry-go-round Ч merry-go-rounds


V. Some nouns have only the plural form:

1. Trousers, spectacles, breeches, scissors, tongs, fetters. These are for the most part names of things which imply plurality or consist of two or more parts.

2. Billiards, barracks, works. These nouns may be treated as singulars. We may say: a chemical works, a barracks, etc.

3. Words like phonetics, physics, politics, optics, etc. are usually treated as singulars except in some special cases.


It was not practical politics!(Galsworthy)

All party politics are top dressing. (Galsworthy)


4. The word news is treated as a singular.


When she goes to make little purchases, there is no news forher. (Thackeray)

The newshe gave them was to be read in the lamentations. (Sabatini)


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