Plural Nouns

Teaching how to make regular plural nouns is easy when you teach the -s and -es patterns. The majority of nouns use the simple -s. Nouns that end with e and vowel +y also use the -s suffix.

  • Noun ends with Consonant - chairs, rugs, lights
  • Noun ends with E - bees, houses, names
  • Noun ends with Vowel + y - trays, honeys, joys

The -es ending is a little more complicated. Use these three basic rules which depend upon the last letter/s of the noun. Rule 1 - Nouns ending with ch, sh, s, x, or z, Rule 2 - Nouns ending with f or fe, and Rule 3 - Nouns ending with a consonant + y.  A more advanced rule is nouns ending with -ief, -oof, -eef, -ff or -rf use the -s suffix (chiefs, hoofs, reefs, puffs, dwarfs). Nouns ending with f or fe appear to be undergoing a change to using just the -s ending. (knifes, loafs)

  • Rule 1 Ends with ch, sh, s, x, z - inches, wishes, buses, foxes quizzes 
  • Rule 2 Ends with f or fe - lives, loaves, leaves
  • Rule 3 Ends with Consonant + y - pennies, bunnies, countries

The most challenging plural nouns are those ending with "o". One rule states that English nouns use the -es suffix and borrowed nouns have have the -s suffix. However, most elementary and ESL students do not know which nouns are English or borrowed. A different rule states that nouns with a consonant + o use -es and nouns with a vowel + o use -s. This is an easier rule to use, but it has many exceptions. Plural nouns ending with "o" appear to be undergoing a change from these rules to just using -s. Check a dictionary when you are unsure which ending to use.

  • Borrowed - pianos, zeros, ratios 
  • English - tomatoes, potatoes
  • Vowel + o - radios, studios
  • Consonant + o -echoes, buffaloes

Other Uses. English also uses -s for third person singular (talks, sees, laughs) and use 's to show possession (Tom's chair, class's books,  town's sites). Non-English speakers often think that English speakers sound like snakes!

Pronunciation. It is important to teach the correct pronunciation of  final -s and -es.  When -s follows a voiceless sound (f, gh, k, p, ph, t, th) is is pronounced just as /s/. When -s follows a voiced sound (b, d, g, l, m, n, r, v, y, vowel) is is pronounced as a /z/.  When -es follow a sibilant ( ce, ch, ge, s, sh, ss, x, z) it is pronounced as /iz/. (Please refer to the Pronunciation of -S Anchor Chart.)

  • Voiceless /s/ - puffs, laughs, books, stops, graphs, hats, months
  • Voiced /z/ - rubs, words, bags, fills, dreams, pans, hears, lives, days, bows
  • Sibilant /iz/ -faces, inches, pages, closes,  dishes, glasses, boxes, sizes


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