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Plurals: Spelling Review Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Plural Rule #3: Words that end in -y

When a noun ends in a vowel + -y ending, add an -s to form the plural. When a noun ends in a consonant + -y ending, change the -y to an i and add -es.

    Examples:
  • tray + -s = trays
  • fly + -es = flies
  • penny + -es = pennies
  • candy + -es = candies

Plural Rule #4: Words that end in -f and -fe

For most words that end in -f or -fe, change the f or -fe to a v, then add -es.

    Examples:
  • elf + -es = elves
  • life + -es = lives
  • shelf + -es = shelves

Notable exceptions to this rule include nouns that end in double f such as sheriffs, cuffs, and plaintiffs, and the words beliefs, briefs, chefs, chiefs, gulfs, roofs, and safes.

INSIDE TRACK

IF YOU'RE HAVING trouble remembering the exceptions to the spelling rules, keep in mind that there is strength in numbers. By this, I mean that it is sometimes easier to remember several exceptions with similar patterns than it is to remember each one individually. For example, three words that don't follow the "change the -f to a v" rule are beliefs, briefs, and chiefs. It is more likely you'll remember each of these words if you think of them as a small group of words ending in -iefs than if you picture each word as being completely unique.

Plural Rule #5: Hyphenated Words

When pluralizing hyphenated words, add the -s to the word that is being pluralized.

    Examples:
  • ex-husband + -s = ex-husbands
  • father-in-law + -s = fathers-in-law
  • court-martial + -s = courts-martial

This is also true for certain unhyphenated terms that are used as a single noun. For instance, the plural of attorney general is attorneys general.

Plural Rule #6: Strange plurals—technical words

Some technical words that end in -um or -on change the -um or -on to an a when forming plurals.

    Examples:
      Some words that end in -us change the -us to an i.
      Some words that end in -is change the -is to -es.
      Some words that end in -ex or -ix change the -ex or -ix to -ices.

These are very strange rules, indeed, but there is a small bit of logic beyond them. Some technical words that come directly from Latin or Greek roots make their plurals the same way they would be made in these original languages. Technical words, in this case, are words that are used in the sciences. Examples of these words can be found in the following tables.

Words that end in -um or -on

Singular Plural
curriculum curricula
datum data
medium media
stratum strata
criterion criteria
phenomenon phenomena

Words that end in -us

Singular Plural
alumnus alumni
focus foci
nucleus nuclei
thesaurus thesauri

Words that end in -ex or -ix

Singular Plural
appendix appendices
apex apices
matrix matrices

Words that end in -is

Singular Plural
analysis analyses
basis bases
hypothesis hypotheses
oasis oases
parenthesis parentheses
thesis theses

The ending to these words is pronounced with a long e sound, as in (analyses) or ō as in (oases).

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