Sometimes, alternative plurals have even developed different senses, as in the cases of spirit mediums vs. As you'll see in the list that follows, many words with irregular plurals are loanwords that have kept their foreign plural forms or at least held on to those forms as alternatives to regular English plurals. In the list below, you'll find singular noun forms in the left column and the corresponding plural forms in the right column.
When a noun has more than one plural form, the irregular one appears first, though that doesn't necessarily mean that the irregular form is more widely accepted than the regular form. Share Flipboard Email. Richard Nordquist is a freelance writer and former professor of English and Rhetoric who wrote college-level Grammar and Composition textbooks. Updated August 10, Continue Reading. However, there are also a number of important exceptions that we need to be aware of in addition to remembering that one and the same noun may be used in more than one way , partly in order to get the agreement between subject and verb right.
Some nouns are such that they cannot be used in the singular, that is, they are always regarded as denoting something plural, and they always take plural agreement. Important members of this category appear in the following examples:. This may not seem so problematic at first sight. Sometimes we use the corresponding nouns in much the same way in Swedish. This is the case with jeans , for instance which requires a plural adjective in Swedish:.
This is often explained by the fact that jeans , trousers 'byxor' , tights , etc. The Swedish noun pyjamas , however, is different from its English counterpart, in spite of the fact that pyjamas traditionally consist of two parts.
In Swedish we get 2 , while the corresponding English sentence would be 3 :. The Swedish word corresponding to the English tweezers is pincett. This noun is not plural in Swedish, even though it can be said to consist of two parts. It seems as if this rule or tendency i. This means, for instance, that 5 does not correspond to 6 or 7 , but to 8 :.
How to Form Plural Nouns in English: Irregular Plural Nouns
Even though minutes is plural in English, the corresponding Swedish word protokoll is a regular noun that can be either singular or plural:. Goods corresponds to Swedish varor. However, in Swedish it is perfectly normal to use the singular vara 11 , while good is not normally used in the singular in English 12 :.
However, in the field of economics, the singular good is actually used, as in the authentic 13 :. Classically it is said that money acts as a unit of account, a store of value, and a medium of exchange. Most authors find that the first two are nonessential properties that follow from the third.
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So does in fact the singular valuable in English, but this, too, is rather infrequent. Finally in this subsection we have some nouns that do not end in a plural -s, but which are problematic because they are always plural, often in a collective or generic sense. For instance, when we use the police , we normally refer to the whole police force, and when we talk about people , we often talk about people in general. Grammatically, the most important difference is that while uncountable nouns always take singular subject-verb agreement, plural nouns always take plural agreement.
Even though these nouns are inherently plural and collective in English, this need not be the case in other languages, such as Swedish.
For instance while 14 is fully grammatical in Swedish, 15 is not possible to use in English. Instead we have to use 16 :. Nouns that end in - ics look plural, but are actually most often treated as singular. Thus, when heading a noun phrase which functions as the subject, they trigger singular agreement on the verb. In the examples above, the nouns in - ics denote academic disciplines.
However, some of these nouns may also be used to denote the practical application of the discipline, and are then treated as ordinary plurals, e. Zero plural nouns are nouns that look the same in the plural as they do in the singular.
Singular and plural nouns | English Grammar | EF
A well-known example is the noun sheep. Since sheep is a zero plural noun, it looks the same in the two sentences below. However, this does not prevent it from being singular in the first sentence and plural in the second one, as indicated by the different verb forms, is and are :. Other nouns that belong to this category are aircraft , Chinese , deer , elk , headquarters , horsepower , hovercraft , means , offspring , Portuguese , salmon , series , species , trout , and Vietnamese. When in doubt, please consult a good dictionary. There is a group of nouns whose members are commonly referred to as 'foreign plurals'.
What the nouns in this group have in common is that both their singular and their plural forms have been borrowed from other languages, which means that the plural ending is not the regular English - s , but something else. Examples of such foreign plural nouns that are important to remember, especially when writing academic texts since many of these words tend to be academic in nature , are analysis-analyses , basis-bases , criterion-criteria , diagnosis-diagnoses , hypothesis-hypotheses , parenthesis-parentheses , phenomenon-phenomena , stimulus-stimuli , and thesis-theses.
What usually happens when a word is borrowed into English or into some other language is that it is changed in line with the morphology of the language into which it has been borrowed. Consequently, there are some foreign words in English that have both a foreign and an English plural form. A couple of etymologically plural nouns are sometimes used as uncountable singulars.
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The two most common examples are media and data. About this site.
Identifying language resources Writing Stage Structuring the text Framing the text: Title and reference list Structure of the whole text Structure within sections of the text Structure within paragraphs Signposting the structure Using sources Rewriting Stage What needs to be revised? How to revise Submitting the text References Grammar and Words Introduction Selective Mini Grammar The major word classes The morphology of the major word classes Words and phrases Noun phrases Elements in the noun phrase Classes of nouns Determiners Verb phrases Elements in the verb phrase Classes of main verbs Auxiliary verbs Primary auxiliary verbs Modal auxiliary verbs Meanings of modal auxiliaries Marginal auxiliary verbs Time and tense Simple and progressive forms The perfect Active and passive voice Adjective phrases Adverb phrases Pronouns Personal pronouns Dummy pronouns Possessive pronouns Interrogative pronouns Indefinite pronouns Quantifiers Prepositions and prepositional phrases Clauses and their parts More on adverbials Subjects and predicate verbs The order of subjects and verbs Subject-Verb agreement Common Problems and How to Avoid Them Many or much?
On the use of quantifiers Many vs. Lund University Activate BrowseAloud. What we have to say is instead is, for instance 2 much pork; a large amount of pork; or lots of pork. Examples of partitive constructions include the following: 3 a bottle of water; a clap of thunder; a grain of wheat; a slice of ham; a state of mind; a piece of bread; a box of chocolate; an act of violence A partitive construction is thus a construction where we make use of a countable noun that can be used to denote a certain portion of something uncountable.
For example, we can use the following noun phrases: 4 seven bottles of water; six slices of ham; two boxes of chocolate As we may conclude from the examples in iii and iv above, some partitive expressions denote portions or quantities that are fairly well defined, while others are rather inexact. In spite of beer being basically uncountable, we can naturally say things such as 1 and 2 : 1 She had three beers yesterday. This is the case with jeans , for instance which requires a plural adjective in Swedish: 1 Mina nya jeans var inte dyra.