A plural noun is used to show that more than one of the nouns is being described. For example, the plural form of the word ‘foot’ is ‘feet.’ There are two different kinds of plural nouns; regular plurals, which follow plural spelling rules, and irregular plurals, which do not.
Plural nouns can sometimes be tricky for pupils to make sense of. Luckily, this guide provides a simple breakdown of important plural spelling rules to help you and your pupils understand the essential grammar rules for spelling plurals with -s or -es. Then, once your students are ready to put their new understanding of plural spelling rules to the test, we have lots of resources and activities to reinforce that all-important grammar knowledge.
What is a plural noun?
Several different plural spelling rules depend on what letter a noun ends in.
Children will learn about two types of plural nouns, regular plurals, and irregular plural nouns. But first, let’s examine the difference between regular and irregular plural words:
- We all think about regular nouns when we think of plurals, which are the simplest to learn and spell. The general rule of regular plural nouns is that they are created by adding the letter ‘s’ to the end of a singular noun. For example, if you an S to the singular noun ‘apple,’ you will create the regular plural noun — apples. Alternatively, some regular plural words will add -es to turn one singular noun into a plural noun. For example, when you add an -es to the singular noun box, you get the plural noun boxes.
- Irregular nouns: Next, we get to the plural nouns that love to cause everyone problems. Irregular plural nouns do not follow the plural spelling rules mentioned above. In irregular plural nouns, the word can change in a few different ways. Check out these examples of singular nouns turned into irregular plural nouns:
Wolf = Wolves: This is an example of the -f and -ef plural rule. We drop the final-for-fein in the singular noun for these irregular plural nouns and replace it with the ending-ves.
Woman = Women: This is a vowel change irregular plural noun. Some singular nouns become plural nouns by changing vowels in the middle of the word. No rule or pattern tells you when this happens; children will need to learn the terms that apply to this spelling rule.
Mice = Mouse: Some words change entirely to represent the plural noun. Again, there is no rule to recognize these, and children must learn which words change with the plural.
What are ten examples of plural nouns:
In the table below, we’ve included ten examples of plural nouns alongside their singular forms. As you read through them, pay attention to how the words change as they’re pluralized and try to determine which ones are the irregular plurals:
|Singular Noun||Plural noun|
What are the plural spelling rules?
Now that we know a bit more about plural nouns let’s take a closer look at plural spelling rules. Once pupils begin using plurals in their writing, they must understand these rules and implement them. Read our guide to familiarize yourself with these rules before teaching them to your learners:
1) Plural Spelling rules: Adding an -s and -es
In most cases, the rule for making regular nouns plural is pretty simple. You have to add the suffix -s to the end of the word:
- Car – car
- Bike – bikes
Regular nouns are predictable. You would talk about horses when we have more than one horse in a field.
However, not all singular nouns can be plural by adding an -s. For example, if a singular noun ends in ‑s, -ss, -sh, -ch, -x, or -z, then you’ll need to add ‑es to the end to turn it into a plural noun. Nouns where you need to add the suffix -es are still known as regular nouns; they are slightly more complicated to form. Here are some examples of how words with these endings can be made plural:
- Atlas – atlases
- Pass – passes
- Bush – bushes
- Trench – trenches
- Box – boxes
- Blitz – Blitzes
Getting children to understand regular nouns is an essential first step. Once learners have grasped this, they can start learning the spelling rules for more complex nouns.
2) Plural spelling rules: Turning -Y into a plural
How we pluralize a word with a ‘y’ ending changes depending on what letter comes before the ‘y’. If the letter preceding the ‘y’ in a singular noun is a vowel, then we generally add an -s at the end of the word like this:
- Toy – toys
- Alloy – alloys
But if the letter before the ‘y’ is a consonant, we make the word plural by sticking the suffix -ies to the end. Take a look at these examples:
- Pony – ponies
- City – cities
Yet this way of pluralizing nouns can be confusing. For example, if the rule for changing singular to plural ending with a y would be to change ‘puppy’ change to ‘puppies,’ then you might expect someone with the surname Crosby to become Crosbies. It is incorrect, however. If you are talking about Jess Crosby and Eliza Crosby, you are talking about more than one member of the Crosby family.
When you’re changing a proper noun, so the name of a place or person, you add an ‘s’ when you change the singular to plural ending with y.
I went to visit Jess Crosby and Eliza Crosby
I went to visit the Crosbys today.
3) Plural spelling rules: Words with other endings
There are also lots of specific rules for nouns with different word endings. In this next section, we’ll look at some of these and point out any outlying words that pupils should be aware of.
When we want to pluralize a singular noun that ends in the letter ‘o’, we often add an -es suffix. For example:
- Mango – mangoes
- Buffalo – buffaloes
Another odd grammar rule states that if the singular noun ends in ‑us, the new plural ending should be -i. For example:
- Cactus – Cacti
- Stimulus – Stimuli
Another important spelling rule is that when pluralizing a word ending in ‘f,’ we often use the suffix -ve and add an ‘s.’
- wife – wives
- wolf – wolves
4) Plural spelling rules: Words that never change
While the previous plural spelling rules have taught us which words need to be changed and how some words never change! Many of these examples of plurals refer to animals. Check out these examples in sentences to see them in action!
- We caught one fish and then later lots of fish.
- One sheep escaped, and the rest stayed in the field.