What is a Plural Noun? Definition and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on October 26, 2022

If you want to know what a plural noun is and how to make one, you've come to the right place.

This article is the ultimate guide to plural nouns and will cover everything you need to know about what precisely a plural noun is and how to turn a singular noun into a plural one.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

How Do Plural Nouns Work?

What Is a Plural Noun?

A noun is an essential part of any sentence. It gives you information about the thing, person, or place being spoken about.

If there is more than one thing, person, or place (two or more), you'll need to use a plural noun instead of a singular one. And that's where plural nouns come in.

What Are the Rules to Make a Plural Noun?

When you read about plural nouns, you'll often read that, in general, to pluralize a noun, you should add -s or -es, and then there are exceptions. Or irregular words, as we like to call them.

And technically, this is correct. However, there are so many exceptions that it's hard to justify this as a rule. While it's true that most plural nouns will end with -s or -es, the way you get there differs depending on the word.

For some words, you add the -s or -es; for others, you must change some letters in the word first. Sometimes, you'll have to change the word entirely, and other times you have to double the final letter first.

But don't worry! The good news is that the right way to pluralize a noun largely depends on its ending.

In the following sections, you'll find the different endings a noun might have and the right way to pluralize each one.

Nouns Ending In -S, -SS, -SH, -CH, -X, or -Z

For nouns ending in -s, -ss, -sh, -ch, -x, or -z, add -es to the end to make them plural. For example:

  • Bus → buses
  • Pass → passes
  • Bush → bushes
  • Church → churches
  • Fax → faxes
  • Waltz → waltzes

Sometimes, you might need to double the final Z.

  • Whiz → whizzes
  • Quiz → quizzes

Nouns Ending In -O

Now moving on to nouns that end with O. To pluralize those, you'll need to add -s or -es. You'll need to memorize the spelling of each word, as there is no rule to tell them apart.

  • Piano → pianos
  • Cello → cellos
  • Kilo → kilos
  • Volcanos → volcanoes
  • Zero → zeroes
  • Hero → heroes

Nouns Ending In -F or -Fe

If a singular noun ends in -f or -fe, the plural form can be as simple as adding an -s. Other times, you'll need to change the -f to a -v and then add -es. Here are some examples of both:

  • Roof → roofs
  • Handkerchief → handkerchiefs
  • Sherif → sheriffs
  • Wife→ wives
  • Loaf → loaves
  • Shelf → shelves

Just like with words ending in -o, the only way to know which plural spelling each word takes is to memorize them individually or look them up as and when.

Nouns Ending In -Y

For nouns ending in -y, sometimes you need to add an -s. For others, you remove the -y and add -ies. Let's have a look at some examples:

  • Journey → journeys
  • Toy → toys
  • Replay → replays
  • Family → families
  • Victory → victories
  • Economy → economies

Exceptions When Making a Plural Noun

The sections above outline the general rules for pluralizing nouns depending on their ending. But within some of these sections are some exceptions. Let's find out which ones.

Plural Noun Latin Loanwords

Some words borrowed from Latin have still kept their Latin pluralization. Many of these loanwords end in -us or -um, and their ending changes to -i and -a, respectively. For example:

  • Fungus → fungi
  • Bacterium → bacteria

Not all words ending in Us or Um are like that, mind you. These are mostly the exception. Here are some examples of words that have Latin-like endings yet fall under the general category when it comes to their pluralization rules:

  • Circus → circuses
  • Campus → campuses
  • Album → albums
  • Forum → forums
  • Taxi → taxis
  • Rabbi → rabbis

Nouns Ending In -Is

Usually, a noun ending in -is just requires the usual -es added to it to make it plural. For example:

  • Iris → irises

But there are some exceptions.

Some singular nouns that end in –is require you to change the -is to –es. Like:

  • Oasis → oases
  • Crisis → crises
  • Thesis → theses

Nouns Ending In -On

The usual rule for nouns ending in -on is that you tack on an -s at the end. Such as:

  • Solution → solutions
  • Crayon → crayons
  • Apron → aprons

However, at times you're required to switch the -on to a -a, such as in the following examples:

  • phenomenon → phenomena
  • criterion → criteria

Other Important Plural Noun Rules

Now you have an understanding of the basic rules around noun pluralization. Sometimes, however, things can get a little complicated.

What should you do, for example, if you want to pluralize a mass noun that's already technically plural? Or if you need to talk about a family of people using their last name, should you pluralize that?

Read on to find out.

Proper Nouns

Sometimes you may need to pluralize a proper noun. You might want to talk about the Jones family next door or how many people named John are attending the class. You may wish to discuss the Grammy awards with a friend.

There aren't so many exceptions for pluralizing proper nouns, so the rules are much more straightforward.

With proper nouns, the rules go as follows:

  • Add -es if the name ends in -s, -x, -z, -ch, or -sh;
  • Add -s for any others

Here are some example sentences:

Have you met the Joneses yet?

There are two Johns in my class this year.

Did you watch the Grammys last night?

The Browns just moved in next door.

There are only so many Reeses in the world.

Possessive Nouns

Possessive nouns and plural nouns can appear very similar at first glance. All that separates them is an apostrophe. Look at the following examples to illustrate:

The dog's bone is all chewed up.

The dogs are chewing their bones.

In the first sentence, there's only one dog; in the second, there are several. The first sentence uses the possessive form to refer to one dog's bone. The bone that belongs to the dog is all chewed up.

What if you wanted to talk about bones that belonged to several dogs? In that case, you would add an apostrophe after the plural -s. Like such:

The dogs' bones are all chewed up.

Here are some more example sentences that use a possessive noun in the plural form:

We got our kids' school supplies from the shop round the corner.

The neighbors' house is enormous.

I love what you've done with the babies' nursery.

The same rules apply when you want to pluralize a possessive proper noun:

Have you been to the Joneses' house?

I think that's the Smiths' car.

The Beatles' music shaped a generation.

For proper nouns that end in -z, it's also acceptable to add -'s. For example:

  • It's the Ramirez's turn to host the potluck.

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are singular nouns that refer to a plural entity. For example, the word jury is singular, but it refers to a group of people who assist in a trial case or judge a competition.

Collective nouns, although referring to more than one thing, person, or place, can also be pluralized. For example, you might want to refer to more than one jury.

With collective nouns, the general rules of pluralization apply. Let's have a look at some example sentences to illustrate:

Juries have to try their best to remain objective.

Ted Talks always attract large audiences.

We have three teams competing at state level this year.

Mass Nouns

One type of noun cannot be pluralized, and that is mass nouns.

Mass nouns, also known as uncountable nouns, can't be talked about in the plural form at all because they are uncountable. Here are some examples of mass nouns:

  • Gold
  • Snow
  • Spaghetti
  • Rice
  • Water
  • Butter
  • Intelligence

You might sometimes hear people use some of the above words in the plural sense. This can be acceptable in spoken language, but bear in mind this is not correct.

For instance, you could ask for "two rices" at the restaurant. What you really mean (and the correct way to say it) is that you would like two bowls of rice. However, the server will understand what you mean either way.

Some Last Thoughts on the Plural Noun

Now that you know the different ways to pluralize a noun, you can feel confident that you'll use the correct form.

Be easy on yourself if you find yourself unable to memorize all of these or if you make a mistake now and then. Just like all things, practice is key. Over time, you'll find you automatically know the correct plural form for a noun.

If you want to know more about nouns, or other pillar concepts of English grammar, head to our free online grammar book.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.