Singular and Plural Rules

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Proper English grammar can be quite confusing, and some people may find it difficult to learn. Proper grammar includes definite rules for singular and plural words, as well as exceptions to these rules. Unfortunately, proper English also includes many maverick words that follow no rules but their own.

1 Adding an "s"

The word "singular" is commonly understood mean to one. Adding the letter "s" to many singular words will make them plural. For example, the word "chicken" is made into its plural form "chickens" and the word "roof" with the addition of an "s" becomes "roofs."

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2 Endings "ss" and "ch"

Most words that end in an "ss" or "ch" are more complicated when the words change from a singular form to plural. The words usually require adding an "es" to the end in order to make them plural. For example, the word "compass" would be "compasses" in the plural form. The word "bench" becomes the plural "benches."

3 Endings of "ff" and "f"

Words such as "cliff" and "turf" are singular, and to make these words into a plural, only an "s" is needed -- "cliffs" and "turfs." However, exceptions to this simple pluralization change the "f" to a "v" and require an "es." Words like "shelf" and "leaf" become different-looking words in the plural: "shelves" and "leaves."

4 Words Ending in "y"

When words that end with a "y" but the "y" is preceded by a consonant, the word ending changes to "ies" to take the plural form. The word "baby" becomes "babies" in the plural form. Whereas, if the word ends in a "y" and the preceding letter is a vowel, then the addition of the letter "s" will make the word plural. "Boy" becomes "boys."

5 Words That End in "o"

The rule for turning a singular word that ends with the letter "o" into a plural depends on the preceding consonants and vowels. If the letter preceding the "o" is a consonant, then the plural version will have an "es" ending, as in "hero" becoming "heroes" in the plural. If the preceding letter is a vowel, then an "s" is all that is needed for the plural. The word "studio" becomes "studios."

6 Irregulars

Most rules have exceptions. Some words do not need a change in their ending letters to become plural. The change takes place within the word itself. For example, "goose" is the singular and "geese" in the plural, or "mouse" to "mice."

7 Only Plural

Some words have only a plural form. The words "oats," "mumps," and "tongs" are some of the words that are only used in the plural form.

  • 1 English Grammar Handbook; Gordon Loberger, Ph.D., and Kate Shoup Welsh; 2002

Jeanne Baird is a freelance writer with a decade of experience as a proofreader, editor and writer. She has been the associate editor for an engineering society handbook and a project manager for an independent publishing company. Baird also has edited business and entertainment news from several international newswires.