Many nouns in English have a plural form either with an s/es ending or without. For example, when is it correct to use youth vs. youths, fish vs. fishes, or hair vs. hairs?
Use youths and hairs when countable.
Example: Three youths were given awards for community service.
If youth is being used collectively, do not add the s.
Example: The youth of today watch less TV but spend more time on the computer.
When youth is used as a collective noun, you may follow it with either a singular or plural verb. I chose the plural verbs watch and spend because I felt that we were using youth in a plural manner here.
Examples: The hairs on her chin were long.
Her hair is long.
The words fish and fishes are interchangeable, although some references say to use fishes when referring to two or more species.
Examples: This fish is huge.
These barracuda fish are huge.
All the barracuda fish in the reef are enormous.
The fishes in the reef are colorful. (indicating two or more species)
Some nouns do not change at all in their plural form.
Examples: sheep, deer, offspring, series, species
Other nouns have plural forms that do not involve adding an s.
Examples: alumnus/alumni, radius/radii, child/children, woman/women, foot/feet, goose/geese, tooth/teeth, vertebra/vertebrae, mouse/mice
To confuse us even more, some nouns change their is ending in the singular to an es ending in the plural.
Examples: parenthesis/parentheses, paralysis/paralyses, diagnosis/diagnoses
Is there a simple way to know the plural of a noun? Only if you’re psychic. The rest of us are stuck with having to rely on the dictionary.
Posted on Saturday, April 5, 2008, at 12:32 am25 Comments on Irregular Plurals