In English language learning, there are always exceptions to the rules. One of these exceptions is forming the plural of irregular nouns. Irregular nouns are words that do not follow the standard rules for forming plurals, such as adding -s or -es to the end of a noun. Instead, they require a change in spelling to conjugate their plural forms.
In this blog, we will look at some of the most common irregular nouns in English and how to form their plural forms.
What is the Plural Form of Irregular Nouns?
The plurality of a noun refers to more than one object or person. In English, the plural form of a noun is usually formed by adding -s or -es to the end of the word. However, some nouns do not follow this rule and require spelling changes to conjugate their plural forms. These are known as irregular nouns.
The table below shows the difference between the plural form of regular nouns and irregular nouns:
|Type of Noun||Singular Form||Plural Form|
Plural Form of Irregular Nouns Rules
While capturing all the rules of forming the plural form of irregular nouns is tricky, some common rules can help you remember the correct plural form of most irregular nouns.
Here are the rules for conjugating irregular nouns in their plural forms:
|Rule||Singular Form||Plural Form|
|If an irregular noun ends in ‘f’ or ‘fe,’ change it into the letter ‘v’ and add the suffix ‘-es.’||– wife|
|If an irregular noun has a double ‘o’ in the middle, change it into a double ‘e’.||– foot|
|If an irregular noun ends in ‘an,’ change it into ‘en.’||– man|
|If an irregular noun ends in ‘is,’ switch the letter ‘i’ into the letter ‘e.’||– synopsis|
|If a Latin or Greek noun ends in “us,” change its last two letters into ‘i.’||– nucleus|
|If a Greek word ends in ‘on,’ change the last two letters into ‘a.’||– criterion|
|If an irregular noun ends in the letter ‘a,’ add the letter ‘e’ on its end. These irregular nouns can also have their regular plural form.||– formula|
|– formulae or formulas|
– vertebrae or vertebras
– antennae or antennas
|If an irregular noun ends in ‘um,’ change the last two letters into ‘a.’||– memorandum|
|Some irregular nouns completely change in spelling in their plural form.||– die|
|Some irregular nouns have the same singular and plural form.||– species|
Uncountable nouns like hair, rice, and wine are considered singular nouns. However, their plural forms are formed by adding a number and a form or unit of measurement.
|hair||ten strands of hair|
|rice||seven cups of rice|
|wine||two bottles of wine|
|coffee||four cups of coffee|
|water||ten gallons of water|
|furniture||five pieces of furniture|
|clothing||three items of clothing|
|bread||six loaves/slices of bread|
Examples of Plural Forms of Irregular Nouns
Here are fifteen sentences using the plural form of irregular nouns:
1. Marcius and I watched the geese fly in a V formation across the sky.
2. I need to buy two new knives for my kitchen.
3. We saw several deer in the forest this morning.
4. There were many cacti growing in the desert.
5. Gian needs two dice for the board game.
6. The children were playing with a pile of leaves.
7. We found a group of bacteria in the petri dish.
8. I bought three loaves of bread from the bakery.
9. Maya’s children are all successful in their fields of study.
10. The cats are trying to catch those mice scurrying around the barn.
11. My father and his friends were discussing the latest news.
12. You are not allowed to release ten memoranda in a day.
13. We saw several species of fish in the aquarium.
14. Harold used five media to create his artwork.
15. The data Fatima collected was helpful in her research.
Plural Form of Irregular Nouns Exercises with Answers
Complete the table below by providing the plural form of irregular nouns.
|nebula||4. nebulae or nebulas|
Plural Form of Irregular Nouns List
|Singular Irregular Nouns||Plural Irregular Nouns|
|amoeba||amoebae or amoebas|
|apex||apices or apexes|
|aquarium||aquaria or aquariums|
|bureau||bureaux or bureaus|
|château||chateaux or chateaus|
|codex||codices or codexes|
|dictum||dicta or dictums|
|tableau||tableaux or tableaus|
|vertex||vertices or vertexes|
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.
Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand plural form of compound nouns and nouns definition and examples.
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|
|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.
|Adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ to irregular unchanging nouns.||Unchanging nouns are tricky. Hence, some learners pluralize them by following the regular rule.||Since there are only a few unchanging irregular nouns, the best way to avoid this mistake is to memorize them.||Incorrect|
deer – deers
barracks – barrackses
bison – bisons
moose – mooses
deer – deer
barracks – barracks
bison – bison
moose – moose
Learning Strategies and Best Practices for Plural Form of Irregular Nouns
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.
Plural Form of Irregular Nouns Frequently Asked Questions
Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts
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