CHAPTER 13. NOUNS: THE FORMATION OF PLURALSA noun is a word used as the name of a person or a thing. In the following examples, the nouns are underlined.
He opened the parcel.
She is a student.
The weather is warm.
A cat is sitting on the steps.
Names of individual persons or things are referred to as proper nouns. In English, proper nouns must begin with a capital letter. The underlined words in the following sentences are proper nouns.
e.g. The capital of England is London.
My friend, George, is an American.
Countable nouns are nouns which can form a plural, and which can be preceded by a, an, or a number. In the following examples, the countable nouns are underlined.
e.g. A bus is coming.
You may need an umbrella.
Here are two books.
Twenty students are present.
In general, when a countable noun refers to two or more things, it must be put into the plural. In English, the plural of most countable nouns is formed by adding s. For example:
It has already been explained that a verb must agree with its subject. When the subject of a verb is a singular noun, the verb must be in the third person singular. The third person singular is the form of the verb used with the personal pronouns he, she, and it.
When the subject of a verb is a plural noun, the verb must be in the third person plural. The third person plural is the form of the verb used with the personal pronoun they. In the following examples, the verbs are printed in bold type and their subjects are underlined.
Singular Subject: The book is interesting.
Plural Subject: The books are interesting.
Singular Subject: A duck was flying overhead.
Plural Subject: Two ducks were flying overhead.
Singular Subject: One student lives here.
Plural Subject: Three students live here.
See Exercise 1.
a. Nouns ending in ch, s, sh, x or z
For nouns ending in ch, s, sh, x or z, the plural is formed by adding es. The reason for this is that these words would be difficult to pronounce if only s were added. The ending es is pronounced as a separate syllable. For example:
It should be noted that when a plural is formed by adding s to words ending in ce, ge, se or ze, the final es is pronounced as a separate syllable. For example:
In each of the preceding examples, the singular noun consists of one syllable, whereas the plural noun consists two syllables.
See Exercise 2.
b. Nouns ending in y
Nouns ending in y preceded by a consonant usually form the plural by changing the y to i and adding es. For example:
Nouns ending in y preceded by a vowel usually form the plural simply by adding s. For example:
See Exercise 3.
c. Plurals of proper nouns
Proper nouns form plurals following the rules given above, except that proper nouns ending in y always form the plural simply by adding s, even when the y is preceded by a consonant. For example:
See Exercise 4.
d. Nouns ending in f or fe
Some English nouns ending in f or fe change the f to v when forming the plural. For instance, the following nouns ending in f form the plural by changing the f to v and adding es:
In addition, the following nouns ending in fe form the plural by changing the f to v and adding s:
There are also a few nouns ending in f which can form the plural in two different ways. For example:
|hoof||hoofs or hooves|
|scarf||scarfs or scarves|
|staff||staffs or staves|
|wharf||wharfs or wharves|
Most other nouns ending in f or fe form the plural simply by adding s.
See Exercise 5.
e. Nouns ending in o
Some English nouns ending in o form the plural by adding s, some form the plural by adding es, and some can form the plural by adding either s or es. The following fairly commonly used nouns form the plural by adding es:
Most other nouns ending in o, particularly those of Spanish or Italian origin, can form the plural simply by adding s; however a good dictionary should be consulted in cases of doubt. For example:
See Exercise 6.
f. Foreign words
Many words from other languages have been adopted into the English language. Most of these form the plural by adding s or es, but some, particularly Greek and Latin words used for scientific purposes, form the plural in the same way that they do in the original language. For example:
See Exercise 7.
g. Hyphenated nouns
In the case of nouns formed from two or more words joined by hyphens, usually only the last word forms a plural. However, there are a few cases in which only the first word forms a plural. For example:
h. Numbers and letters
Numbers, letters, and other symbols can form plurals by adding 's. For example:
i. Irregular plurals
The English language has not always used s to form plurals. There are still a few words surviving from Old English, which do not use s to form the plural. For example:
Nouns ending in man usually form the plural by changing man to men. For example:
A few nouns do not change in the plural. For example:
See Exercise 8.