One characteristic of a noun is showing how many persons, places, things, or ideas it represents. Nouns can be either singular or plural. A singular noun refers to only one unit of something. On the other hand, plural nouns show that the number of nouns is more than one.
This component of grammar is essential to understand to apply it correctly when writing and speaking. In English language learning, the number of nouns is usually among the first topics discussed.
What is the Number of Nouns: Singular vs Plural?
There are two types of the number of nouns. Singularity refers to when a person, place, thing, or idea is only one. In contrast, plurality indicates two or more nouns are considered.
Following the standard pluralization of nouns, the word cat is a singular noun because it refers to one animal. The plural form of a cat is cats, which indicates that there is more than one cat. Similarly, the word house is a singular noun, while its plural form is houses (more than one house).
For irregular nouns, the rules for pluralization can be more complicated. For example, foot becomes feet in plural form, and mouse becomes mice. In these cases, the plural form does not follow the same pattern as other regular nouns.
Number of Nouns: Singular vs Plural Rules
A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea. Nouns can be either singular (one) or plural (more than one). Singular nouns refer to one person, place, object, or idea while plural nouns refer to two or more persons and objects. The rules for forming the plural of a noun depend on the ending of the singular form and whether the noun is regular or irregular.
The Standard Rule of Pluralization
The standard rule for pluralizing nouns is to add -s or -es to the end of the singular form. The table below explains this rule in detail.
|Regular Noun Rules||Examples|
|Most regular nouns are converted into their plural form by adding -s or -es.||pet – pets|
lake – lakes
queen – queens
soap – soaps
flower – flowers
|Add -es to singular nouns ending in s, ss, sh, ch, z, and x.||bias – biases|
process – processes
dish – dishes
peach – peaches
waltz – waltzes
box – boxes
|If a noun ends in the letter y and is preceded by a consonant, change y into i and add -es.||puppy – puppies|
spy – spies
country – countries
ability – abilities
family – families
|If a noun ends in the letter y and is preceded by a vowel, add -s at its end.||toy – toys|
day – days
monkey – monkeys
boy – boys
tray – trays
|If a noun ends in the letter o and is preceded by a consonant, add -es.||hero – heroes|
tomato – tomatoes
echo – echoes
potato – potatoes
volcano – volcanoes
|If a noun ends in the letter o and is preceded by a vowel, add s.||studio – studios|
video – videos
kangaroo – kangaroos
radio – radios
bamboo – bamboos
Plural Form of Irregular Nouns
Plural forms of irregular nouns are nouns that do not follow the general rules of forming plurals. For example, mouse becomes mice. Irregular nouns will have a different spelling and pronunciation in the plural form than they do in the singular form. Examples include foot-feet, child-children, and man-men.
Plural Form of Compound Nouns
Compound nouns are nouns that are made up of two or more words. Plural form of compound nouns is formed by adding an ‘s’ to the base word of the compound noun. For example, the plural form of ‘doorstep’ is ‘doorsteps’ and ‘mother-in-law’ becomes ‘mothers-in-law’.
Examples Number of Nouns: Singular vs Plural
Here are ten examples of sentences using singular nouns:
- The house that my uncle bought is haunted.
- A puppy was lost during the storm.
- The boy was playing with his toy.
- My sister is a queen of the chessboard.
- A flower blooms in the garden.
- The hero saved the day.
- The tomato is ripe and juicy.
- The volcano erupted last night.
- Playing a video game is my favorite pastime.
- My radio plays music all day long.
Here are ten examples of sentences using plural nouns:
- Many empty trays were discarded in the kitchen.
- The cats were chasing each other around the house.
- The houses in the neighborhood are all different colors.
- The mice were running around the kitchen floor.
- The children were playing in the park.
- The spies were gathering information about their target.
- We bought some new dishes for our dinner party.
- Her brothers-in-law organized the surprise party.
- The kangaroos were hopping around the field.
- He will buy five toothbrushes for the family.
Number of Nouns: Singular vs Plural Exercises with Answers
Complete the table below by providing the plural form of the singular verbs.
Number of Nouns: Singular vs Plural
|Regular Nouns||Irregular Nouns||Compound Nouns|
|chair – chairs||ox – oxen||passer-by – passers-by|
|phone – phones||man – men||sister-in-law – sisters-in-law|
|lady – ladies||tooth – teeth||cupful- cupfuls|
|fox – foxes||leaf – leaves||taxi driver – taxi drivers|
|picture – pictures||sheep -sheep||grown-up – grown-ups|
|tattoo – tatt0oes||crisis – crises||check-in – check-ins|
|key- keys||forum- fora||father-in-law – fathers-in-law|
|wall – walls||cactus – cati||train station – train stations|
|event – events||phenomenon – phenomena||amusement park – amusement parks|
|supply -supplies||axis – axes||weekend – weekends|
Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners
English grammar, like any language, is a complex subject to study. Understanding and applying grammar rules can be challenging, especially for English language learners. However, your success in learning the language is dependent on your learning plan.
First, know that there are different levels of language proficiency. Knowing your status allows you to align it with your study materials and learning strategy. To keep your motivation, select beginner-friendly materials instead of university textbooks when starting. In doing so, you will feel less intimidated by the topics you should learn.
Second, focus on the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Learn how to use them correctly in sentences and understand their meaning. It will help you build a strong foundation for your English language learning journey. Divide those topics into subtopics and learn each concept and rule one by one.
Third, find a reliable source of learning materials. Online resources such as websites, blogs, and YouTube videos are mostly free. LillyPad’s blog, for example, is a great resource for English language learning materials. Additionally, you can find books and other printed materials in your local library or bookstore.
Fourth, practice speaking the language with native speakers or other English learners. It will help you understand how to use the language correctly in conversations and improve your pronunciation.
Finally, be patient with yourself and don’t give up. Learning a language takes time and effort, so set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements along the way.
Common Errors Made by English Learners
Learning a new language can be difficult, and English is no exception. Even experienced English learners make mistakes when speaking or writing in the language. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by English learners:
|Common Mistake||Why it Happens||Correction||Examples|
|Using an apostrophe to make a noun plural||With the prevalence of social media, most people use apostrophes to make words plural. This mistake might stem from the fact that possessive nouns and plural nouns use the letter ‘s.’||An apostrophe is never used to make a noun plural. Instead, it functions to show possession.||Possessive noun: The ethnic minority’s land is here.|
Plural compound noun: The ethnic minorities own this land.
Possessive noun: Taxes are one of the grown up’s problems.
Plural compound noun: The grown-ups are talking about taxes.
|Adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ to the plural form of irregular nouns.||Learners likely carry the rule on pluralizing regular nouns with irregular nouns. This common mistake also happens when learners don’t familiarize themselves with or memorize irregular nouns.||After learning about regular nouns, familiarize yourself with irregular nouns. Note that the plural form of both differs. Hence, avoid adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ to the plural form of irregular nouns.||Incorrect:|
“Peoples” and “fishes” are an exception to this rule. We use people when referring to more than one group or kind of people. The same applies to fishes.
Learning Strategies and Best Practices for Number of Nouns: Singular vs Plural
A holistic approach to learning a language makes it easier to understand and remember. The five macro skills, reading, listening, viewing, speaking, and writing, should be developed and used in the learning process for better language acquisition. The table below lists activities you can do when learning linking verbs:
|Reading||– Use flashcards to know basic English sight words and their meaning.|
– Search for material that contains translations of common expressions from your native language to English.
– Select study materials appropriate for your language proficiency.
|Listening||– Listen to an audiobook or a song and write what you hear to improve your retention of English words.|
– Compare and contrast two audio materials like TV ads and a speech.
– Summarize a podcast, movie, audiobook, and other English audio materials.
|Viewing||– Observe how native speakers speak and try to mimic it.|
– Watch English movies, interviews, and tutorials.
– Use pictographs to learn and remember new words.
|Speaking||– Join a community of English language learners and communicate with them to improve and gain feedback.|
– Integrate the language into your daily life and try to speak using English.
– Participate in speech organizations (e.g. debate clubs, theatre groups)
|Writing||– Write a journal of your learning journey in English.|
– Answer practice tests and create your own sentences.
– Create a reflection essay on the media you watch or listen to.
Number of Nouns: Singular vs Plural Frequently Asked Questions
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