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Topic: Grammar
Skill: Singular/Plural

Plurals


Singular = a word meaning one object. For example: I have a football.

Plural = a word referring to more than one object. For example: I have five footballs.

Adding 's'

We make the plural of most words by just adding 's':

hat - hats, chick - chicks, nose - noses, boy - boys, bee - bees

Adding 'es'

There is no such word as 'glasss'

If we add 's' to glass it would look funny and we would not be able to hear the difference between one glass and two glasss, so we add 'es':

One glass - two glasses

Words ending in hissing sounds like s, ss, sh, ch, tch, x, z become plural by adding 'es'.

Try saying bushs, benchs, boxs instead of bushes, benches, boxes and you will see why they are spelt with 'es'.

Task Complete these unfinished words as plurals:

Names and addre....

Polar bears and walru..

Weeds and gras....

Hens eaten by fox...

Coats and dress.....

Chapels and church..

Try making up a story using the plural of these phrases. It can be as silly as you like.

Adding 's' to words that end in 'y'

To make the plural of words that end in 'y', check if the letter before the 'y' is a vowel or a consonant.

Remember: Vowels are the letters a, e, i, o, u. Consonants are all the other letters of the alphabet.

If it is a vowel (if the word ends ay, ey, oy) then add 's':

One day - 7 days, a toy - several toys, one monkey - 3 monkeys

If it is a consonant, change the 'y' to an 'i' and add 'es':

One baby - five babies, a story - good stories, one party - lots of parties

Task Try changing the words in brackets into plurals:

(Boy) riding (pony)..............................

(Journey) abroad................................

(Supply) of (turkey)...............................

(Friend) and (enemy)..............................

(Hill) and green (valley)............................

(Baby) playing with (puppy)..........................

Try making up a story using the plurals of these words.

Halfs or halves? - Words that end in 'f' or 'fe'

Usually when you make a word into a plural you add 's' but words that end in 'f' are tricky. Some follow the general rule, but in others the 'f' changes to a 'v' and you add 'es'. There is no rule about which ones change and which stay the same; but try saying the word and if you can hear an 'f' in the plural you usually add an 's', for example chef = chefs. If you can hear a 'v' in the plural you usually change the 'f' to 'v' and add 'es', for example leaf = leaves. Check them in a dictionary if you are not sure.

Here is a complete list of all the words in which the 'f' changes to

'-ves'. The quickest (if not the easiest) way is to learn these '-ves' words; all the other words ending in 'f' or 'fe' will just have an 's' added to make a plural.

Words where the 'f' changes into 'v' and you add 'es':

calf - calves

life - lives

thief - thieves

elf - elves

loaf - loaves

wife - wives

half - halves

self - selves

wolf - wolves

knife - knives

sheaf - sheaves

leaf - leaves

shelf - shelves

So, if a word isn't on this list, it will end 'fs'.

Task Re-write these sentences - changing the words in brackets into plurals:

I saw the white (cliff) of Dover when I came home from France.

The (thief) broke into my house but the police caught them.

The (cuff) of his shirt were dirty.

I read my son the story about Snow White and the Seven (Dwarf).

I cut the cake into two (half).

Plurals: words ending in 'o'

There is no rule to tell us whether to add 's' or 'es' to these words. You just have to learn them!

Some always add 's':

photo - photos, solo - solos, video - videos, studio - studios

Some always add 'es':

tomato - tomatoes, hero - heroes, potato - potatoes, echo - echoes

For a few you can add either 's' or 'es':

eskimo = eskimos or eskimoes,grotto = grottos or grottoes

One way to remember the spelling is to make up nonsense stories with words from one group:

with 'es' cargoes of potatoes and tomatoes;

with 's' photos and videos in the radio studios.

Words ending with 'oo' will always add 's':

igloo - igloos, kangaroo - kangaroos, cuckoo - cuckoos, tattoo - tattoos, bamboo - bamboos, zoo - zoos

Task Try changing the words in brackets into plurals:

(Cargo) of wheat................................

Electricity from (dynamo)..........................

Lava from (volcano)..............................

Ships sunk by (torpedo)...........................

Television (studio)...............................

Japanese in (kimono).............................

Irregular plurals

To make the plurals of some words you change the complete word or add more than just 'es'. These are called irregular plurals, and there is no rule for them, you just have to learn them!

Some words change completely when they are made into a plural:

child = children, woman = women, person = people, man = men, goose = geese, foot = feet, tooth = teeth, mouse = mice

These words stay the same when they become plural:

trout = trout, deer = deer, sheep = sheep, fish = fish,

aircraft = aircraft, salmon = salmon, barracks = barracks

and especially Italian pasta dishes: macaroni, spaghetti, tagliatelli, ravioli.

Pairs of things usually stay the same:

If in doubt: check it in a dictionary!

Task Complete these rules on plurals to help you remember them:
  1. For words that end in 'ch' 'sh' 'ss' 's' 'z' 'x' you ..........

..........................................

  1. The vowels are the letters ........................
  1. Words that end in a 'y' with a vowel before it you ..........

...........................................

  1. Words that end in a 'y' with a consonant before it you ........

...........................................

  1. 'Consonants' are ................................
  1. Words that end in 'o' like potato, tomato, hero you add ......

but other words like photo, piano, studio, dynamo you add ......

  1. There is no rule for words that end in 'f' or 'fe' sometimes you ..............but in other words you ............

8. There are some words that are the same for singular or plural like ........................................

9. Some words change completely for the plural like ........

..........................................

Foreign words

Many English words have been taken from other languages so they behave differently - the plurals are formed as they would be in the original language.

Greek and Latin nouns ending in 'a' change to 'ae' (pronounced 'ee') when they become plurals:

larva - larvae, alga - algae, formula - formulae, antenna - antennae

Greek and Latin words ending in 'is' change to 'es' (pronounced 'eez'):

analysis - analyses, crisis - crises, emphasis - emphases

Greek nouns ending in 'on' change to 'a':

criterion - criteria, phenomenon - phenomena

Latin words ending in 'ix' or 'ex' change to 'ices' (pronounced 'iss-eez'):

index - indices, appendix - appendices

Latin nouns ending in 'um' change to 'a':

datum - data, stratum - strata, stadium - stadia, bacterium - bacteria

Latin nouns ending in 'us' change to 'i':

Fungus - fungi, nucleus = nuclei, syllabus = syllabi, cactus = cacti, radius - radii

but some Latin names ending in 'us' change to 'era' or 'ora':

genus - genera, opus - opera

French nouns ending in 'eau' or 'eu' add 'x':

chateau - chateaux, milieu - milieux, gateau - gateaux

Some French nouns ending in 's' do not change (but the 's' is pronounced 'z' in the plural form): chassis, précis

Some Italian words ending in 'o' change to 'i':

virtuoso - virtuosi, graffito - graffiti, paparazzo - paparazzi

Task Turn these words into plurals, but watch out!

mass =

church =

berry =

half =

kidney =

chief =

aircraft =

lass =

tomato =

knife =

fantasy =

ferry =

lash =

sewer =

bay =

wave =

child =

family =

hero =

grass =

salmon =

jelly =

monkey =

wife =

potato =

roof =

key =

Why not make an alphabetical list of these words for easy reference?

Here is another practice exercise. Change the words in brackets into plurals.

(Prefix) and (suffix)..............................

(Pencil) and (brush)...............................

A clatter of horses' (hoof)...........................

Two (half) of an orange............................

(Hobby) for girls................................

(Crate) of (tomato)..............................

(Nought) and (cross).............................

Narrow (alley) and (entrance) ........................

(Box) of (potato) and (carrot) ........................

Ripe (strawberry) ................................

(Husband) and (wife) .............................

(Display) of dancing ..............................

Try writing a story using the plurals of these phrases. Make it as silly as you like! Answers Adding 's': page 1 Names and addresses, Polar bears and walruses, Hens and foxes, Coats and dresses, Weeds and grasses, Chapels and churches Words that end in 'y': page 2 Boys riding ponies, Journeys abroad, Supplies of turkeys, Friends and enemies, Hills and green valleys, Babies playing with puppies Halfs or halves: page 3 White cliffs, Thieves, Cuffs, Seven Dwarfs, Cake into two halves Ending in 'o': page 3 Cargoes, dynamos, volcanoes, torpedoes, commandos, studios, kimonos Rules on plurals: page 4 Words ending in 'ch' 'sh' 'ss' 's' 'z' 'x' you add 'es' Vowels are a, e, i, o and u. Words ending in 'y' with a vowel before it you add 's'. Words ending in 'y' with a consonant before it, change the 'y' to 'i' and add 'es'. Consonants = all the letters in the alphabet once the vowels are removed. Words ending in 'o' like potato, tomato, hero - add 'es' but other words like photo, piano, studio, dynamo - add 's'. Words that end in 'f' or 'fe' sometimes you add 'es' (or 's') in other words you add 's' (or 'es'). Some words that are the same when singular and plural are sheep, surf, salmon, aircraft, news. Some words that change completely for the plural are mouse and mice, man and men, tooth and teeth, child and children. First exercise: page 5 Masses, churches, berries, halves, kidneys, chiefs, aircraft, lasses, tomatoes, knives, fantasies, ferries, lashes, sewers, bays, waves, children, families, heroes, grasses, salmon, jellies, monkeys, wives, potatoes, roofs, keys Second exercise: page 6 Prefixes and suffixes, pencils and brushes, horses' hooves, two halves, hobbies for girls, crates of tomatoes, noughts and crosses, alleys and entrances, boxes of potatoes and carrots, ripe strawberries, husbands and wives, displays of dancing


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