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II. Irregular plurals

The Number of Nouns


I. Regular plurals


  1. Most nouns form their plural by adding –s to the singular noun

Book – books [s], girl – girls [z], day – days [z]

  1. We add –es if the singular noun ends in –ch, -sh, -s, -x.

Church – churches, dish – dishes, bus – buses, box – boxes [iz]

  1. Some nouns ending in –o preceded by a consonant also add –es.

tomato – tomatoes volcano – volcanoes [vכl keinou]

potato – potatoes negro – negroes

hero – heroes echo – echoes [ ekou]

torpedo [tכ: pi:dou] - torpedoes motto – mottoes (-s)

tornado [tכ: neidou] – tornadoes (-s) veto [ vi:tou] – vetoes

mosquito – mosquitoes (-s)

But if a noun ends in –o preceded by a vowel or it happens to be a noun of foreign origin, only –s is added.

photo – photos piano – pianos

radio – radios zero – zeros (es)

scenario [sin a:riou]- scenarios kilo – kilos

cuckoo [ kuku:] – cuckoos metro [metrou] – metros (метеорологическая сводка)

  1. Nouns ending in a consonant + -y change the –y to –i and add –es.

baby - babies


II. Irregular plurals

1. The following nouns ending in –f or –fe have the ending – ves in the plural:

wife – wives (жена) calf – calves (телёнок)

life – lives (жизнь) shelf – shelves (полка)

knife – knives (нож) wolf – wolves (волк)

loaf – loaves (буханка, каравай) leaf – leaves (лист)

half – halves (половина) thief – thieves (вор)

But other nouns ending in –f or –fe take only –s in the plural.

roof – roofs (крыша) gulf – gulfs (морской залив)

chief – chiefs(глава, руководитель) proof – proofs (доказательство)

safe – safes belief – beliefs (убеждение)

cuff – cuffs (манжет(ы)) grief – griefs (горе, печаль)

cliff – cliffs (утес, отвесная скала)

The following nouns have both forms in the plural:

scarf – scarfs/scarves (шарф)

handkerchief – handkerchiefs/ handkerchieves (носовой платок)

hoof – hoofs/ hooves (копыто)

wharf – wharfs/ wharves (пристань, причал)

2. A few nouns form the plural with –en.

child – children

ox – oxen (бык)

brother – brethren (not blood relations, members of the same society)братство н-р студенческое

3. Some nouns form the plural by changing their vowels.

mouse – mice foot – feet

louse – lice (вошь) tooth – teeth

man – men goose – geese

woman – women

4. A few nouns have the same form for the singular and the plural.

a sheep – sheep (овца) a swine – swine (свинья)

a deer – deer (олень) a fish – fish

a craft – craft (судно – суда)

a counsel – counsel (адвокат, юрисконсульт)

5. Some borrowings (заимствования) from Latin or Greek have their original plural forms.

· from Latin:

a. –us → -i [ai]

nucleus – nuclei

focus – foci [sai]

stimulus [ stimjulәs] – stimuli

b. –a → ae [i:]

formula – formulae / -as [әz]

antenna [æn tenә] – antennae (щупальце, антенна)

c. –um → a

datum [deitәm] – data (данная величина)

sanatorium [sænә to:riәm] – sanatoria (лечебница)

memorandum [memә rændәm] – memoranda (памятная записка)

stratum [stra:tәm] – strata (пласт)

d. –ix, -ex → -ices [si:z]

index – indices (указатель)

appendix – appendices (приложение)


· from Greek

a. –on → -a

phenomenon – phenomena (явление)

criterion – criteria (критерий)

automaton [ o: tomәt(ә)n] – automata

b. –a → ata

dogma – dogmata

schema [ski:mә] – schemata

c. –is [is] → -es [i:z]

basis [beisis] – bases [ beisi:z] (базис, основа)

crisis – crises

analysis – analyses

axis – axes (ось)

diagnosis – diagnoses

thesis [θi:sis]– theses (тезис)

hypothesis – hypotheses

parenthesis – parentheses (вв. слово)

emphasis – emphasis (ударение, эмфаза)


Сompound nouns

  1. usually the final component is made plural

writing table – writing tables Englishman - Englishmen

drawback – drawbacks (недостаток) postman – postmen (почтальон)

forget-me-not – forget-me-nots (незабудка) сustom house – custom houses (таможня)

merry-go-round – merry-go-rounds (карусель)

  1. in a few nouns the first component is made plural(по главному слову)

man-of-war – men-of-war passer-by – passers-by (прохожий)

commander-in-chief – commanders-in-chief (главнокомандующий)

lily-of-the-valley – lilies-of-the-valley (ландыш)

father-in-law – fathers-in-law (свёкр, тесть)

governor-general – governors-general (генерал-губернатор)

court-martial [ ko:t ma:∫(ә)l] – courts martial (военно-полевой суд)

  1. when the first component is “man” or “woman” the plural is expressed twice.(дважды)

Woman-doctor – women-doctors

Man-servant – men-servants


Singularia tantum (Lat.) – nouns, used only in the singular. (всегда в ед.ч.)

  1. names of materials (iron, copper, sand, wine, cheese, bread, ...)
  2. nouns denoting abstract notions (generosity, curiosity, anger, poetry, fun, sculpture, progress, knowledge, information, advice, ...)

Note: many other abstract nouns may have both the singular and the plural forms (idea – ideas, change – changes, suggestion – suggestions)

  1. nouns ending in –ics (physics, phonetics, mathematics, politics, optics, ethics, ...)
  2. a few nouns which end in –s (news, gallows (виселица), summons (вызов в суд), barracks (казарма, барак), bellows (меха), lodgings (помещение, временное жильё), headquarters (штаб))
  3. money, hair(волосы); remember: a hair (волосок) – hairs (волосинки, шерстинки)


Pluralia tantum (Lat.) – nouns, used only in the plural. (всегда во мн. ч.)

  1. articles of dress consisting of two parts (trousers, shorts, trunks (брюки-дудочки), pyjamas [pә ʤa:mәz], drawers [drכ:z] (кальсоны), braces (подтяжки))
  2. tools and instruments consisting of two parts (spectacles (очки) glasses, binoculars, scales (весы), scissors (ножницы), fetters (кандалы), pincers (щипцы, пинцет), tongs (щипцы))
  3. names of some games (billiards, cards, dominoes, draughts) ваш учебник считает их единственным числом!
  4. miscellaneous: riches (богатство), contents (содержание), oats (овёс), thanks, clothes, goods (товары), surroundings, savings, wages (зар. плата рабочих), belongings (пожитки), goings on (поведение, поступки), winnings, homecomings , appearances= looks (внешность), crops (урожай), bowels (кишечник), whereabouts (местонахождение), hangings (драпировки, портьеры; обои), premises (недвижимость)

Note: there are some nouns which are homonymous of nouns used in both forms:

a colour – colours (= hues) colours (=regimental flags)

a force – forces (=power) forces (=an army)

a glass – glasses glasses (= spectacles)

a quarter – quarters (1/4) quarters (= lodgings)


· Nouns belonging to the singularia tantum group are occasionally used in the plural form for stylistic reasons.

the sands of the Sahara

the blue skies of Italy

the waters of the Atlantic ...


Collective nouns (собирательные существительные) – nouns denoting groups of people and sometimes animals.

The aristocracy delegation

The bourgeoisie [ buәʒwa: zi:] government

Committee the Congress

Class audience

Army the clergy (духовенство)

The staff (штат сотрудников) team (команда)

Family the elite [ei li:t]

Group flock (стая)

The gentry(мелкопоместное дворянство) crowd (толпа)

Herd (стадо) jury (суд присяжных)

Intelligentsia [in teli ʤentsiә] crew (экипаж)

· We use plural verbs and pronouns when we think of these groups as collection of individuals.

(My family keep a close eye on me.

The team are resting now.

The public were not admitted to hear the trial.)

· When they are used to indicate the group as a single undivided body (a non-personal collective) we use singular verbs and pronouns.

(His family was well-known in their town.

Our football team has done badly this season.

The audience was unanimous.)


· People, police, cattle (крупный рогатый скот) usually require a plural verb.

· A people (народ) – peoples (народы); people – неисчисл. люди

· The noun“fruit”isgenerally used in the singular. (Fruit is cheap in summer.), but when different sorts are meant the form “fruits” is used. (On the table there are apples, pears, plums and other fruits.)

· Grape – виноград (растение), a grape - виноградина, grapes – виноград (плоды). (Grapes are sour.)

· The noun “fish”has the same form for the singular and for the plural (I caught 2 fish.)

But when different species are meant the form “fishes” is used. (In this lake there are fishes of many varieties.)

· The noun “penny”takes the form “pence” in the plural when a certain sum of money is meant, when separate coins (монеты) are meant the form “pennies” is used. (It costs 18 pence. He dropped three pennies in the slot-machine.)

· The usual plural of “person”is “people” (not persons).

· The nouns “ dozen”and “score”have the same form for the plural and the singular when they are used after the numerals (2 dozen eggs, 3 score years). In other cases the forms “dozens” and “scores” are used in the plural.( Pack the books in dozens, please. Scores of people were present there.)

· Crossroads (перекрёсток)+ the verb in the singular

· A means(одно средство)many means(много средств), a species(один вид)manyspecies(много видов)

· A Chinese – 2 Chinese – many Chinese


· Mind the following attributive phrases:

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