words, and in a large number of foreign words that have been adopted from other languages.

Practical Tests of Number.

When in doubt about the number of a given word, do not try to recall a rule of grammar; the ear is a better test than the memory. If you can use that, this, is, was, or has with the word, it is singular; if it sounds better to use those, these, are, were, or have, the word is plural. Such tests show us, for example, that news is singular, tidings plural, and means singular or plural.

Plurals in “ s.

The regular ending for the plural is s:

hand, hands; dog, dogs; tree, trees; hue, hues; shoe, shoes; sea, seas; day, days; chief, chiefs; house, houses; judge, judges; refusal, refusals; complication, complications; cuff, cuffs; roof, roofs.

Nouns ending in o cannot be reduced to a fixed rule; but when o is preceded by a vowel, the regular ending s (not es) is added :

bamboo,bamboos; cuckoo, cuckoos; Hindoo, Hindoos; cameo, cameos; portfolio, portfolios; embryo, embryos; curio, curios; trio, trios.

Nouns ending in fe change f to v before adding s:

wife, wives; knife, knives; life, lives.

Plurals in “es.'

When s does not blend easily with the singular, es is added:

church, churches; box, boxes; bench, benches; grass, grasses; bush, bushes.

When a noun ends in y preceded by a consonant, the plural takes the form ies:

city, cities; duty, duties; fly, flies; mutiny, mutinies; army, armies; colloquy (= -kwy), colloquies.

Most nouns that end in f change f to v before adding es:

sheaf, sheaves; thief, thieves; calf, calves; shelf, shelves; wolf, wolves; beef, beeves.

Most nouns that end in o preceded by a consonant add es:

hero, heroes; buffalo, buffaloes; motto, mottoes; negro, negroes; potato, potatoes; echo, echoes; volcano, volcanoes; mosquito, mosquitoes.

The three most common exceptions to the last rule are:

piano, pianos; solo, solos; banjo, banjos.


1. What is meant by number in grammar?

2. Since sheep does not change its form in the plural, how do you know that it is plural in “ These sheep were killed by dogs”?

3. Why do you add s to hand and es to church to form the plural?

4. What is the rule for the plural of nouns ending in o? nouns ending in fe and f?



Old English Plurals.

In Old English, the English of King Alfred (849-901 A.D.), at least half of the nouns in our language formed their plurals by adding an, which later became en. Of these en plurals, oxen is the only real survivor. Children, brethren, and kine (= ki-en) are in form double plurals, the r in children, the e in brethren, and the i in kine being old plural signs.

Of Old English plurals made by the change of an inner vowel instead of by the addition of a suffix, Modern English preserves eight:

foot, feet; man, men; woman, women; tooth, teeth; goose, geese; louse, lice; mouse, mice; dormouse, dormice.

[blocks in formation]

Some come from French:

beau, beaux; bureau, bureaux.

Most of them, however, come from Latin and Greek:

[blocks in formation]

Plurals of Compound Nouns.

(1) If the compound noun is written without a hyphen, the plural is formed regularly :

spoonful, spoonfuls; handful, handfuls; handbag, handbags; bandbox, bandboxes; playmate, playmates; maidservant, maidservants; kingfisher, kingfishers; bombshell, bombshells; warboat, warboats; blackbird, blackbirds ; castaway, castaways; baseball, baseballs; football, footballs; schoolmate, schoolmates; schoolhouse, schoolhouses; schoolmaster, schoolmasters; stepdaughter, stepdaughters; stepson, stepsons; stepmother, stepmothers; stepfather, stepfathers.

1 This has also a regular English plural in s.

(2) If the compound is written with a hyphen, s is added to the principal noun:

[blocks in formation]


fathers-in-law son-in law

sons-in-law mother-in-law mothers-in-law daughter-in-law daughters-in-law hanger-on

hangers-on passer-by

passers-by attorney-at-law attorneys-at-law coat-of-mail


major-general major-generals
commander-in-chief commanders-in-chief

(3) If the compound contains no noun, s is added to the last word:





(4) Three nouns take a double plural:



manservant woman servant knight templar

menservants women servants knights templars

« ElőzőTovább »