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Weekly Grammar


Irregular Plurals


The vast majority of nouns in the English language are made plural by adding an "s" or "es" to the end of the word. For example, book, apple, house, table, door, cat, bush, boss are just some of the millions of words that become plural with the simple addition of an "s" (books, apples, houses, tables, doors, cats, bushes, bosses). However, certain nouns have "irregular" plurals which do not behave in this standard way.



Regular Plurals

For most nouns, the general rule for making the word plural is:

  • If the word ends in s, x, ch or sh, add an "es" Bless + es = blesses
Box + es = boxes
catch + es = catches
Dish + es = dishes
  • If the word ends in a consonant (all letters except a, e, i, o, u) + y, then change the "y" to an "i" and ad the letters "es" Baby = Babies

Candy = candies

  • For all other non-irregular nouns, simply add an "s" to the end of the word Cat = cats
Dog = dogs
Kid = kids

Irregular Plurals

Certain words do not follow the above rules for regular plurals. There are some common types of irregular plurals that occur, and some words simply have no plural form at all.

While it is useful to memorize the common irregular plurals, for many words you simply have to know and understand that it is an irregular plural as a result of speaking and hearing English.

Non-Count Nouns

Non-count nouns, also called collective nouns, have no plural form because they are assumed to be plural. Most abstract nouns are non-count nouns. Some examples are:

  • Hair
  • Grass
  • Mud
  • Dress (when referring to a style of dress, not when referring to a clothing item that hangs in your closet)

If you are talking about multiple varieties or types of these irregular plurals, you cannot make them plural by adding an "s" or "es" to the end. Instead, you need to make them plural by adding a descriptive phrase. For example:

  • There are many different styles of hair
  • There are several varieties of grass
  • There are three different kinds of mud
  • The ancient people had a few types of styles of dress

Unchanging Nouns

Certain other nouns have the same plural form as singular form. A large number of animals happen to follow this rule. For example, among others:

  • Deer is "deer" whether singular or plural
  • Fish is "fish" whether singular or plural
  • Bison is "bison" whether singular or plural
  • Moose is "moose" whether singular or plural
  • Elk is "elk" whether singular or plural.

Other Irregular Plurals

In addition to non-count nouns and unchanging nouns, there are several different types of irregular plurals which follow a pattern in the English language.

  • For words that end in "fe," you change the letter "f" to the letter "v" and then add "s"
Knife = knives
Wife = wives
  • For words that end in "f" you change the "f" to a "v" and add "es"
Half = halves
Loaf = loaves
  • For words that end in "us," change the "us" to an "i"
Syllabus = syallabi
  • For words that end in "o" add "es"
Tomato = tomatoes

Words that Change Form

Certain words do not add a letter to the end, but instead change the word itself. These words simply need to be memorized. Some examples include:

  • Man to men
  • People to persons
  • Tooth to teeth
  • Goose to geese


The best way to learn and understand irregular plurals is to practice speaking the English language, to read a great deal, to pay attention to words and phrases that you see and hear and to assemble a list of words with irregular plurals so you can begin to understand how to make each noun plural correctly.

Subject and Predicate

Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject. In the following sentences, the predicate is enclosed in braces ({}), while the subject is highlighted.

Judy {runs}.
Judy and her dog {run on the beach every morning}.

To determine the subject of a sentence, first isolate the verb and then make a question by placing "who?" or "what?" before it -- the answer is the subject.

The audience littered the theatre floor with torn wrappings and spilled popcorn.

The verb in the above sentence is "littered." Who or what littered? The audience did. "The audience" is the subject of the sentence. The predicate (which always includes the verb) goes on to relate something about the subject: what about the audience? It "littered the theatre floor with torn wrappings and spilled popcorn."

Unusual Sentences

Imperative sentences (sentences that give a command or an order) differ from conventional sentences in that their subject, which is always "you," is understood rather than expressed.

Stand on your head. ("You" is understood before "stand.")

Be careful with sentences that begin with "there" plus a form of the verb "to be." In such sentences, "there" is not the subject; it merely signals that the true subject will soon follow.

There were three stray kittens cowering under our porch steps this morning.

If you ask who? or what? before the verb ("were cowering"), the answer is "three stray kittens," the correct subject.

Simple Subject and Simple Predicate

Every subject is built around one noun or pronoun (or more) that, when stripped of all the words that modify it, is known as the simple subject. Consider the following example:

A piece of pepperoni pizza would satisfy his hunger.

The subject is built around the noun "piece," with the other words of the subject -- "a" and "of pepperoni pizza" -- modifying the noun. "Piece" is the simple subject.

Likewise, a predicate has at its centre a simple predicate, which is always the verb or verbs that link up with the subject. In the example we just considered, the simple predicate is "would satisfy" -- in other words, the verb of the sentence.

A sentence may have a compound subject -- a simple subject consisting of more than one noun or pronoun -- as in these examples:

Team pennants, rock posters and family photographs covered the boy's bedroom walls.
Her uncle and she walked slowly through the Inuit art gallery and admired the powerful sculptures exhibited there.

The second sentence above features a compound predicate, a predicate that includes more than one verb pertaining to the same subject (in this case, "walked" and "admired").


Written by Frances Peck

Nouns;  Verbs and Verb Phrases

Nouns name a person, place, thing, or idea.  Verbs show the action, condition, or state of being of the subject.  There are action verbs, state of being verbs, and linking verbs.

Verb Phrases

A verb phrase consists of a main verb plus one or more helping verbs, its complements, objects, or other modifiers, and functions syntactically as a verb.

Some common helping verbs are:

  • to be (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been)
  • to have (has, have, had)
  • to do (do, does, did)
  • others: may, might, must, can, could, shall, should, will, would

Helping verbs add meaning to other verbs. Some helping verbs change the time expressed by the key verb. Others, such as "should" and "might," are used to indicate obligation, possibility, ability, or permission:

  • The student is going to Florida for Spring Break.
  • The firm will probably not hire an accountant today.
  • You should edit your own compositions.