How to spell plural nouns

  • A plural noun is used when there is more than one of something.
  • Most nouns follow rules to turn them into plural nouns.
  • Some plural nouns are irregular and can be difficult to spell, whilst others stay the same.
Learn the rules and patterns you need to turn a noun into a plural noun

Plural nouns

Plural means more than one and a noun is a word used to identify something. So, plural nouns are nouns that are more than one. ‘Birds’ is the plural of ‘bird’, for example, and the word ‘cities’ is the plural of ‘city’.

Some plural nouns can be difficult to spell. There are rules that can help you remember how to spell plural nouns.

Just add an ‘s’

The simplest plural noun to remember is when you just add an ‘s’:

  • birthday becomes birthdays
  • present becomes presents
  • animal becomes animals
  • dream becomes dreams

Most plural nouns follow this simple rule and these words are easy to spell.

Remember that adding an apostrophe ‘s’ does not make a plural noun. For example:

  • ‘We saw lots of bird’s in the garden’ - is incorrect
  • ‘We saw lots of birds in the garden’ - is correct

To understand the other plural rules, it helps to know the difference between a vowel - a, e, i, o, u and a consonant - all the other letters in the alphabet.

Just add an ‘es’

If a noun ends in an ‘s’ , ‘sh’, ‘ch’ or ‘x’ then you just add an ‘e’ and an ‘s’ on the end of the word. A useful way to remember this, is that words ending with a ‘hissing’, ‘buzzing’ or ‘whooshing’ sound end in an ‘es’ when they become plural:

  • bus becomes buses
  • box becomes boxes
  • church becomes churches
  • dish becomes dishes

If a noun ends in a consonant and then an ‘o’ you also just add ‘es’ to the end of the word:

  • volcano becomes volcanoes
  • hero becomes heroes
  • echo becomes echoes
When there is more than one ‘dish’, add ‘es’ to make the word ‘dishes’

Dropping the ‘y’ and adding ‘ies­’

If a noun ends in a consonant and then a ‘y’, then the ‘y’ is removed and an ‘ies’ is added:

  • army becomes armies
  • story becomes stories
  • berry becomes berries

Replace the ‘f’ or ‘fe’ ending with ‘ves’

If a noun ends in an ‘f’ or ‘fe’ it is usually replaced with a ‘ves’ ending:

  • half becomes halves
  • life becomes lives
  • scarf becomes scarves

However, there are also some plural nouns that are irregular and don’t follow this rule:

  • belief becomes beliefs
  • chef becomes chefs

Other irregular plurals

Some plurals don’t follow any patterns or rules - these are also called irregular plurals.

The word ‘foot’ becomes ‘feet’ when you make it plural. ‘Child’ becomes ‘children’. These irregular plurals are tricky to spell and often just have to be remembered.

The word ‘feet’ is an irregular plural - it doesn't follow any plural rules

Plurals that stay the same

Some nouns don’t change at all when made plural. Many plurals that refer to animals, for example, don’t change:

  • We caught one fish and then later lots of fish.
  • One sheep escaped, the rest of the sheep stayed in the field.

Although these plural rules may seem complicated, the more you read, the more familiar they will become.

Quiz

Find out how much you know about plural nouns in this short quiz!

Where next?

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