"Singular and Plural Nouns" in English Grammar

Singular and Plural Nouns

Anything that is just one in quantity is singular. But what if there are more than one? Nouns that are two or more are called plurals! Simple, yes? Let's see!

Beginner
"Singular and Plural Nouns" in English Grammar

What Do we Mean by Singular and Plural Nouns?

Based on whether a noun is referring to only one or more entities, they are categorized into two groups.

  1. Singular nouns
  2. Plural nouns

Plural Nouns

When you talk about more than one in the number of something, you are using plural nouns. Pluralizing a noun in English has rules. The basic rule is by adding 's' to the end of a singular noun. We have regular plural nouns and irregular plural nouns.

Plural Noun Rules for Regular Nouns

Typically, to make a noun plural in English, you just need to add -s or -es to the end of the words.

  • Add ‑s to the end of regular nouns

bird → birds

  • Add ‑es to the end the singular noun that have ‑s, -ss, -sh, -ch, -x, or -z, at the end.

bus → buses

  • With some nouns ending in ‑f or ‑fe, change -f to ‑ve before adding the -s.

knife → knives

These are regular nouns too, but these kinds of nouns has a change in their dictations.

  • If a singular noun ends in ‑y and the letter before the -y is a consonant, change the ending to ‑ies to make the noun plural.

baby → babies

  • If the singular noun ends in -y and the letter before the -y is a vowel, simply add an -s to make it plural.

boy → boys

  • If the singular noun ends in ‑o, add ‑es to make it plural.

tomato → tomatoes

  • Not all nouns that end in -o take -es at the end to become plural nouns.

radio → radios

  • With singular nouns ending in -s or -z, you need to double the -s or -z prior to add the -es for pluralization.

gas → gasses

Plural Noun Rules for Irregular Nouns

English language has borrowed many words from other languages, like Latin or Roman or Germanic languages. The pluralization rule for these words are naturally different from modern English. So you have to learn them separately.

  • If the singular noun ends in ‑us, the plural ending is frequently ‑i.

cactus → cacti

You can also say 'cactuses' in modern English language.

  • If the singular noun ends in ‑is, the plural ending is ‑es.

analysis → analyses

  • If the singular noun ends in ‑on, the plural ending is ‑a.

phenomenon → phenomena

Plural Noun: Shapeshifters

Some nouns do not follow any specific rules, and the only way to learn their plural forms is by memorizing them or looking up the words in the dictionary.

child → children

man → men

woman → women

person → people

Remember that 'people' is countable and we should say 'people are...' not 'people is...'

tooth → teeth

foot → feet

mouse → mice

The best way to learn them is to check your dictionaries and memorize them.

Plural Noun: Unchanged

Fish Is Both a Singular and Plural Noun

There are some confusing plurals that have the same form when they are singular or plural.

There is one fish. → (There are ten fish.)

The word 'fishes' is also used here, but it's not very common.

There is one sheep. → (There are ten sheep.)

The plural of 'sheep' is always 'sheep'. 'Sheep', however is not a collective noun; when speaking of more than one sheep, it is simply plural.

There is one deer at the park. → (There are five deer at the park.)

Nouns That Only Have Plural Forms

Some nouns only have a plural form and you cannot see them in singular form (i.e. without -s or -es). One kind of these nouns are those that come in pairs or two parts. See the examples:

pants/shorts/tights/trousers/pajamas/jeans/shoes/slippers/glasses

In normal life one does not wear only one shoe.

If you want to say you have one of these things, you may use the phrase 'a pair of', 'a set of' etc.

I have a new pair of shoes.

It means there are enough shoes for both feet.

Verb Agreements

With singular nouns, we need singular verbs. If we use singular nouns with plural verbs or vice versa it would not be correct.

Students play football in the yard. (Not "Students plays football in the yard.")

The apple is in the bowl. (Not " The apple are in the bowl.")

Demonstrative Determiners Agreement

We use singular demonstrative determiners with singular nouns. Using plural demonstratives with singular nouns or vice versa would not be considered correct

Those books were put on the shelves. (Not "That books were put on the shelves.")

This small dog was barking all night. (Not "These small dog was barking all night.")

Possessive Determiners

Sometimes English learners get confused by the number of possessive determiners when used with nouns. They wonder whether to use singular or plural nouns. Remember, Possessive determiners may not agree with the nouns. You can use plural nouns with singular possessive determiners or vice versa.

My friends are all nice people.

Their mother is a kind woman.

Review

Based on the number of the nouns we have two kinds of nouns.

Singular Nouns

Singular nouns refer to only one person, thing, place, animal, etc.

Plural Nouns

Plural nouns refer to two or more people, things, places, animals, etc.

regular irregular unchanged
Plural nouns simply add s / If the word ends in( x, ch, sh, ss, z )add es the whole word changes / eg., foot → feet fish → fish
article (a) article (an)
Singular nouns nouns starting with a consonant sound nouns starting with a vowel (a.e.i.o.u) sound

Spotlight

We can use the article (the) before both plural or singular definite nouns.

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