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Irregular Plural Nouns - Confusing, Difficult Grammar Words

Updated on April 14, 2013

So Many Exceptions with Plurals

Mouse = Mice, so House = Hice?

Tooth = Teeth, so Booth = Beeth?

Dish = Dishes, so Fish = Fishes?

Regular nouns form plurals with "-s" or "-es."

While most plural nouns form their plurals with “s” or “es,” there are many that form the plural with a different spelling on the end. I'm not talking about plurals like feet, teeth, geese, mice, children, or any other commonly used irregular plurals. I'm talking about ones that are hard to remember--at least for me--and sound funny to the ears. Even as an English teacher, with a Master's in the subject, I don’t use these irregular plurals often, and I don’t hear them often. However, if you ever have to write a report, an article, or academic paper, you should use the correct plural. And if you need to make a speech in front of people, well, you should use the proper plural even if most of your audience would never use the irregular plural. At least, they should be impressed that you do!

While it might be more fun to spit out the plural of “hypothesis” as “hypothesises,” that isn’t the correct plural. There’s probably a reason for that, as it sounds really funny. Some more common words I hear with irregular plurals are:

Plurals that change "i" to "e"


Note: With the plural form, instead of the short "i" sound, the plural with the "e" is pronounced as the long e: "ee."

Nouns whose Plural Changes "us" to "i"


Note: All of the examples in these charts are just a few of the many irregular plurals of this type.

Irregular Plurals that end in -a or -ia


All of those plurals end in “a,” although “criterions” and “memorandums” are also correct. Then why even have the irregular form?

Other Confusing Irregular Plurals

The plural of “alumna” is “alumnae” if the alumna is female. A male “alumnus” becomes plural “alumni.” I can’t seem to keep that one in my head! Here’s a common word: data. Although “data” is thought by many to be both the singular and plural, “datum” is technically the singular form. And has anyone ever heard the plural of “formula” to be “formulae”? Neither have I. I’m sticking with “formulas,” which is also accepted. “Appendix” becomes “appendices.” The plural of “syllabus” is “syllabi,” although syllabuses (can you believe this?) is also accepted. Syllabuses. Now that is fun to say! I’m going with it.

I know I haven't hit all the irregular plurals. Consider how life turns to lives and knife to knives. Child becomes children, and man and woman become men and women. But we are more familiar with those, so I hope this article has been helpful in helping you with the most irregular of irregular plural nouns. Check out my other grammar hubs if you'd like. I'd love to see you there!

Poll: Feedback on Irregular Plural Nouns Lesson

Were you familiar with most of these irregular plural noun forms?

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