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Plural Nouns with "s" Sound

Most nouns have an s sound at the end to make them plural. Some add s, some es, and some change their last letter before adding es. We are going to look at some of the generalizations.

The first, and most important thing is to remember is these are not RULES. They are generalizations. There are exceptions to every one of them.

What decides the spelling?

The way you form the plural follows the ending of the singular noun. The letters to watch out for are s, h, x z, o, f and y. Nouns ending in any other letter usually just take an s.

The first thing to do is to say the noun and then say it with the word two before it. How do you say it?
Try it:
One cat, two cats, one dog, two dogs. 
Be careful, if it doesn't sound right it probably isn't. 
Try this one:
One man, two mans
Not right? Well then it probably isn't a word that has an s sound for the plural. Look it up in a dictionary if you are not sure.

Now, if you are fairly certain it takes an s sound, look at the word. Does it end in any of the following letters:
s, h, x, z, o, f, (fe), y

If it doesn't, just add an s to the end of it and you should have the correct plural.

  • girl, girls
  • ball, balls
  • cup, cups


Now we will look at the awkward letters:

Words ending in s

If it ends in s you need to add es to make the plural:

  • bus, buses
  • dress, dresses


Words ending in x

If it ends in x you need to add es to make it plural:

  • box, boxes
  • mix, mixes

Words ending in z

There aren't many of these but the same applies, add es.

  • buzz, buzzes

Words ending in o

These are a little more tricky. The generalization is that words ending in o take es. However, because so many of the words are not real English words (like taco) many of them do take an s only. If it doesn't look right when you have written it, look it up in a dictionary. Another important thing to remember about words ending in o is that words to do with sound like radio, piano and banjo only add an s! (Please don't ask me why because I don't know). If it isn't to do with sound, and it isn't a foreign word then add es:

  • potato, potatoes
  • tomato, tomatoes

Words ending in h

Look at the letter before the h. If it is an s or c, add es to make it plural. If it is any other letter just add s.

  • bath, baths
  • watch, watches
  • bush, bushes
  • sigh, sighs

Words ending in y

Look at the letter before the y. If it is a vowel, just add s

  • boy, boys
  • play, plays

If it is a consonant, remove the y and put ies:

  • lady, ladies
  • fly, flies
  • lorry, lorries

Words ending in f or fe

Remove the f (fe) and add ves:

  • leaf, leaves
  • shelf, shelves
  • knife, knives

That should help you spell most of the plurals that end with an s sound. For  practice worksheets on each, click the links below:

Words ending in s, x or z
Words ending in sh or ch
Words ending in y
Words ending in f or fe

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