Best Ways to Form English Plurals and Explain Their Usages

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The plural markers can easily be added to their singular forms to generate certain numbers that can be counted when they are used in sentences. Consider the processes below.

  1. Certain singular nouns are changed to plural nouns by adding the plural marker ‘-s’ if the final letter of the word is a consonant apart from ‘h’. The plural marker –‘s’ can also be used with final ‘ee’. Consider the following examples:
Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Book

Committee

Handcuff

-s

-s

-s

       Books

Committees

Handcuffs

2. If the final letter of the word is a vowel and the consonant /h/ or /s/. Most nouns are pluralised by adding the plural marker ‘-es’. Examine the following examples:

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Church

Mango

Class

-es

-es

-es

Churches

Mangoes

Classes

3. Certain singular nouns change to plural nouns by athe adding the plural marker ‘-ies’ when the letter that precedes the final ‘y’ of any nouns is a consonant. Examine the following examples:

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Society

Duty

Lorry

-ies

societies

-ies

Societies

Duties

Lorries

But if the preceding letter is a vowel, it will not change; it will remain the final ‘-s’. Look at the following examples:

(a)        Key – Keys not Keies

(b)        Boy – Boys not Boies

4. Some nouns change their internal double ‘oo’ to double ‘ee’ and some change ‘a’ to ‘e’ between two consonants. Consider the examples below.

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Foot

Goose

Tooth

Man

Woman

Ox

Child

-ee

-ee

-ee

-e

-e

-e

-e

Feet

Geese

Teeth

Men

Women

Oxen

Children

The process above does not work for all words having the same pattern. So it is wrong to say: book – beek, mad – med.

5. A few nouns change the vowel ‘i’ that appears between double ‘ss’ to ‘e’ in their plural forms. Below are relevant examples.

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Analysis

Hypothesis

Neurosis

Synthesis

e

e

e

e

Analyses

Hypotheses

Neuroses

Syntheses

6. Some nouns do not change in form at all, but they express plurality. Below are relevant examples.

Singular forms Plural forms
Sheep

People

Cattle

Deer

Advice

Information

Furniture

Sheep

People

Cattle

Deer

Advice

Information

Furniture

7. Other nouns have special plural forms where the final ‘um’ changes to the final ‘a’. Some of the examples include the following:

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Stadium

Medium

Ovum

Stratum

Memorandum

Symposium

Forum

Addendum

a

a

a

a

a

a

a

Stadia

Media

Ova

Strata

Memoranda

Symposia

Fora

Addenda

8. If certain words are hyphenated, the first words should be plurals. Here are some of the examples:

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Son-in-law

Mother-in-law

Man-of-war

Barrister-at-law

Head-of-state

Editor-in-chief

s

s

e

s

s

s

Sons-in-law

Mothers-in-law

Men-of-war

Barristers-at-law

Heads-of-state

Editors-in-chief

But if a noun is used with another noun ‘general’, it is grammatically wrong to pluralise the word ‘general’. Therefore, the word used with ‘general’ has to be pluralised. Study the following examples:

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Secretary general

Director general

General overseer

-ies

-s

-s

Secretaries general

Directors general

General overseers

9. Few nouns also have possible plural forms. Either of the plural forms is right. Consider the following examples:

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Hoof

Fish

Adieu

-s or –es

– or –es

-s or –x

Hoofs or Hooves

Fish or Fishes

Adieus or Adieux

10. Other nouns having the final ‘x’ in the singular forms will change to the final ‘ces’ in the plural forms. Study the examples below.

Singular forms Plural markers Plural forms
Index

Appendix

-ces

-ces

Indices

Appendices

11. Certain nouns appear in the plural forms often, however they are treated as singular forms. They include the following:

(i)         Mathematics

(ii)        News

(iii)       Measles

(iv)       Economics

12. Some nouns do not exist in the singular forms but plural forms. They are as follows:

(i)         Minutes

(ii)        Goods

Some Important Keys to Note

 Here are two important keys to note:

  1. Note that the countable nouns have plural forms pointed out by determiners, such as these, those, many, few, a few, several, some, a lot, etc. These determiners can precede plural forms or concrete nouns to realise countable nouns.
  2. Note also that modifying numerals like two, three, four, ten, etc. are pointers of plural forms and concrete nouns. These modifying numerals can be used with plural forms and concrete nouns to realise countable nouns.

How to elucidate their usages

In the examples above, ‘textbooks’ and ‘house’ are concrete nouns because they can be touched. ‘Textbooks’ is preceded by the numerical ‘two’ and ‘house’ is preceded by the determiner ‘this’.

So, ‘two textbooks’ can be counted, and ‘this house’ is also countable as a singular house is pointed.

Plural Formation

  1. I want three pots.
  2. The man requested eight mangoes.
  3. I feared these lorries.

In the plurals  above, ‘pots’ ‘mangoes’ and ‘lorries’ are plural nouns because they are added to plural markers, ‘-s’, ‘-es’ and ‘-ies’. Also, they are countable nouns because ‘two pots’ and ‘eight mangoes’ can be counted.

‘Lorries’ too is a countable noun because the speaker is not pointing to all ‘lorries’ but ‘the lorries’ that are possible to count in a particular place.

Let us consider more examples:

  1. Few teeth remain in Sola’s mouth.
  2. The security man needs four men to finish the work.
  3. The linguist made several analyses on the sentence.

In the examples above, ‘teeth’,, ‘men’, and ‘analyses’ are plurals. These plurals do not have the inflection‘s,’, ‘es’ and ‘ies’.

So, do not say tooths or teeths, mans or mens and several analysis. ‘Teeth’, ‘men’ and ‘analyses’ are already plural forms.

Also, it is possible to count four men and few teeth. No matter several sentence analyses may be, they can still be counted.

Let’s consider more examples:

  1. Some people in my church are saints.
  2. There are more than eleven stadia in Nigeria.
  3. A few mothers-in-law are wicked.

In sentences 7 and 8, ‘people’ and ‘stadia’ are plurals. ‘Stadiums’ does not exist as a plural form. ‘Some people’ is a countable noun because no matter how ‘some people’ may be, they can be counted.

Also, it is possible to count ‘eleven stadia’. ‘Mothers-in-law’ is a plural form because it contains the inflection ‘s’ and they can be counted.

  1. The meeting among five     heads of state in Africa was held in Abuja.
  2. Secretaries-Generaleneral attended the chairman’s party.

12. My mum bought t six fish in the market.

In sentence 10, ‘head of state’ without the inflection ‘s’ is a singucountable thatthat which means the president of a particular country. For example:

  • President Goodluck Jonathan is the hethe ad of state of Nigeria.

In this case, it should not be heads of state because the country (Nigeria) which has one head of state is being referred to.

Furthermore, if the inflection ‘s’ is added to the head of state, it is then a plural countable noun which means different heads of state from different countries. For example:

  • The meeting among five heads of state in Africa was held in Abuja.

In this case, five heads of state in Africa are mentioned. It may include the president of Togo or Nigeria or Gambia or Ghana or Liberia from different countries.

In sentence 11, Secretary General without being added to the ‘inflection ies is a singular countable noun which means one person.

Secretaries General on the other hand added to the infection ies is a plural countable noun which means more than one person. Compare the two examples below.

(i)     .    Mr Daniel is the General Secretary to the state government. (Singular referring to one person)

(ii)        All the General Secretaries to the state governments should attend the meeting held in Abuja. (Plural referring to more than one person)

You should note that state in the heads of state cannot be used with the inflection ‘s’ as in:

  • Head of states

OR

  • Heads of states

Also, the word General cannot be used with the inflection ‘s’ as in:

  • Secretary Generals

OR

  • Secretaries Generals

Remember that head of Secretary General can be pluralised and counted.

In sentence 12, six fish means the same type of fish but six fishes, mean different types of fish. Compare these sentences:

(i)         There are fishes in the river. (Different types of fish in the river)

(ii)        I bought two fish. (The same type of fish, whether only two Titus or only two Tilapias).

Six and two fish(es) are plural countable nouns since they are possible to count.

Author: Deola Adelakun

READ ALSO:  Learning Better from Numerical, Indefinite, Universal and Reciprocal Pronouns
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