Connect
To Top

    Irregular Plural Nouns in English

    Irregular Plural Nouns in English

    Prototypical English nouns have both singular and plural forms. Singular nouns refer to one “person, place, thing, or idea” while plural nouns refer to two or more “people, places, things, or ideas.” Regular nouns are predictable, taking an -s suffix to form the plural. Irregular nouns are unpredictable, following other rules to form the plural. Learn how to form the plural forms of irregular English nouns with the following guide.

    Forming Irregular Plural Nouns

    Unlike most English nouns through which -s or ­-es suffixation creates the plural forms, irregular English nouns require different changes from the singular to the plural. Some irregular English nouns require a vowel sound change, or ablaut, between the singular and plural forms. For example:

    • foot – feet
    • goose – geese
    • louse – lice
    • man – men
    • mouse – mice
    • person – people (vowel and consonant sound changes)
    • tooth – teeth
    • woman – women

    Some irregular nouns in English are formed by the addition of an -en suffix. For example:

    • child – children
    • ox – oxen
    • hose – hosen (archaic)
    • brother – brethren (archaic)

    For other irregular English nouns, the plural form is identical to the singular form. For example:

    • bison
    • deer
    • fish
    • moose
    • offspring
    • sheep

    Forming Foreign Loanword Plurals

    Many loanwords from foreign languages have irregular plural forms. For Latin loanwords that end in a, change the a to an ae. For example:

    • alumna – alumnae
    • formula – formulae

    For Latin loanwords that end in ex or ix, change the ex or ix to ices. For example:

    • index – indices/indexes
    • matrix – matrices
    • vertex – vertices

    For Latin loanwords that end in is, change the is to an es. For example:

    • analysis – analyses
    • axis – axes
    • crisis – crises
    • testis – testes
    • thesis – theses

    For Latin loanwords that end in on, change the on to an a. For example:

    • automaton – automata
    • criterion – criteria
    • phenomenon – phenomena

    For Latin loanwords that end in um, change the um to an a. For example:

    • addendum – addenda
    • datum – data
    • medium – media
    • memorandum – memoranda
    • millennium – millennia

    For Latin loanwords that end in us, change the us to an i, era, ora, or es. For example:

    • alumnus – alumni
    • cactus – cacti
    • corpus – corpora
    • census – censuses
    • focus – foci
    • fungus – fungi
    • genus – genera
    • radius – radii
    • syllabus – syllabi
    • uterus – uteri
    • viscus – viscera

    For Greek loanwords that end in ma, add the suffix -ta to the end of the word. For example:

    • dogma – dogmata
    • schema – schemata
    • stigma – stigmata
    • stoma – stomata

    For some French loanwords that end in eau, add a silent -x suffix to the end of the word. For example:

    • beau – beaux
    • bureau – bureaux/bureaus
    • château – châteaux

    For some Hebrew loanwords, add the suffix -im or -ot to the end of the word. For example:

    • cherub – cherubim
    • matzah – matzot
    • seraph – seraphim

    Irregular English nouns regular either stem changes or ending changes (or sometimes both) in the plural. Loanwords from foreign languages also often have irregular plural forms depending on the language from which the noun was borrowed.

    Learn about forming the plurals of regular English nouns in Regular Plural Nouns in English.

    See also Plural English Nouns for a printable that lists the rules for forming plurals of regular, irregular, and foreign loanword nouns in the English language with examples.

    References

    Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
    Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    More in English Nouns