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The Twelve Rules For English Plurals

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The Twelve Rules For English Plurals

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by Brendan Bense

April 4, 2019

Intro

Plural endings turn singular nouns into many. It’s a common feature of English spelling, and the rules range from simple to complex. In our brand new series, we’re going to tackle each and every rule for English plurals! We have six categories to discuss, so there will be six separate episodes. It’s best to start off easy, so our very first episode will focus on S, ES Endings. Each passage below will link to the respective episode and deck on FactSumo!

 

If you’re having trouble with any of these episodes or decks, that’s OK! It’s all apart of the process for learning English. The best thing about learning with FactSumo is going at your own pace! We just provide you with the tools you need to be confident and succeed. Each episode will go in-depth on English plural rules, so if you feel the passages below aren’t enough, there’s always more to explore! Keep in mind that these episodes go in ascending order of difficulty. That means even native English speakers have trouble with the last few rules!

 

Without further ado, let’s get started on exploring the wonderful world of English plurals!

S, ES Endings

Let’s start with the most common plural endings in English! These are the S, ES endings (yes, a clever title, we know). S, ES endings are almost always tacked on right at the end of a word: no modification needed. The rules are super simple and depend entirely on what the end of the base word is. A base word in our guide is just a phrase we use to mean a word before any ending is added to it. All base words here are nouns, because nouns are the only words that can be pluralized. Think about it! You can’t have two smalls (unless smalls refers to a food or drink order). The only words in English that can have plurals are nouns: people, places, objects, and ideas.

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This is all to say that -s and -es are the most common plural endings in English. They are easy to spot, and you’ll be using them the most when you’re writing! Most objects use this form of pluralization. Glasses, bottles, cats, trees. You name it. The other categories are what we would consider special cases. The base word endings in the next categories appear less often (but that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter them)!

Y Endings

These plural endings are a bit less common than S, ES endings, though they still appear quite often in English. Plus, the rules are quite different for -y endings than for S and ES. You’ll either end up changing the -y to a -ys or an -ies! This is different from S, ES endings in that they actually change certain letters around to become plural nouns.

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F, FE Endings

We’re moving on now to F, FE endings. As promised, these are even more difficult than Y endings, but have no fear! They have just one simple rule to follow. Nearly all F and FE endings change to V before adding -es. Isn’t that easy? There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule, so we put it right below Y endings in terms of difficulty. Click on the F, FE Endings episode to find out more (with handy examples)!

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No Change Endings

You might be asking yourself, hey, if these endings don’t even change when they become plural, how can they be more difficult than the others? We hear you. The problem is, these words are deceptive. Not only are there only a few of them out there, but they look like they only need to add an -s to make them plural! No Change Endings require straight memorization to know when and when not to add plural letters to the end. It may be tempting to add -es to fish, or -s to sheep, but that’s wrong! The good thing is that many of these No Change Endings are animals, which can be helpful for memorization!

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Irregular Endings

This just wouldn’t be a guide on English without irregularity. We here at FactSumo like to see English as a big melting pot of many other languages. You can see the influences from Greek, Latin, German, French. The list is endless: we borrow from just about everywhere! What does that mean for our plural rules? Well, a lot of irregularity. Sometimes, words are so inconsistent that they deserve their own category, because they don’t fit anywhere else. Thus, irregular endings was born! We don’t want to give too much away, but here’s a teaser: what are the plurals of man, woman, and child? Tune into our irregular endings episode to find out!

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Greek & Latin Endings

As we said above, English borrows a lot of words from Greek and Latin, so it’s not weird to assume that many plurals are of Greek and Latin origin! Now, if you’re a beginner student learning English, you probably won’t run into these endings too often. These words are pretty advanced, and their plural endings are even more difficult. The examples are few and far between, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important!

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Outro

All these rules are extremely important to a beginner. However, without practice, these rules don’t amount to much! Even more importantly, the few exceptions to these rules are vital to learn as well. Though they don’t appear often, they will take your written English skills to the next level! The only way to learn the exception is to learn the rules first.

 

FactSumo is here to help you on your English plurals journey! We broke up the twelve most important English plural rules into manageable categories, so you can learn the rules at a relaxing, yet challenging pace. If you’re interested in mastering all these rules, look no further than this guide! We’ve linked to all of the mini-guides on this page (and their decks) so you can practice the skills you’ve just read about on your desktop or our app. So get out there and start studying!