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Do Some Irregular Nouns Change Their Vowel Sounds to Form the Plural?

by Jennifer Spirko, Demand Media

    While most English words are made plural by adding an "s" or "es" to the end of the word, English also has many irregular nouns, which form plurals in a variety of ways. Linguists sometimes call these “mutating plurals.” While some irregular nouns are the same whether they are singular or plural, others keep their original foreign plurals. Some other irregular nouns do change their vowel sounds to form the plural, as well.

    No Other Change

    A very few irregular nouns alter only their vowel sound, with no other changes. “Man” becomes the plural “men,” for instance, and “foot” becomes “feet.” There is no general rule here; “goose” becomes “geese,” but other double-o nouns, like “moose” and “roof,” do not change in this way. One category of nouns which do follow a rule is those words ending in “is” that derive from Latin; the ending changes to “es.” Thus, “oasis” becomes “oases,” and “crisis” becomes “crises.”

    Additional Changes

    Some irregular nouns change vowel sounds in addition to other changes to the word. On rare occasions, the vowel itself doesn’t change, only its sound, as when “child” becomes “children.” Some common nouns get shorter, not longer, as when “mouse” becomes the plural “mice.” Again, there is no convenient rule these nouns follow; “house,” for instance, is a regular noun, although it looks just like the irregular “mouse.”

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    About the Author

    Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.

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