Apostrophes are for showing possession (or relationship) and for removing letters from a word (like making a contraction). There are NO other uses for apostrophes in English.
I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere along the line, we got the idea that if we add ‘s to a noun, it makes the noun plural. (Especially with names, which is why I like to forward the reminder of how to make names plural right before Christmas card season.) Unfortunately, English doesn’t work that way.
The beauty of 2019 is the amount of information on the Internet. You can look anything up, as long as you know how to look for it or what to call it. If you aren’t sure, Google it. Type something like this into the search: “Make fox plural.” Or you can email me. I’ll tell you. (It’s foxes.)
The Basic Rules to Make Nouns Plural
Rule 1: For most regular nouns, you add the letter –s.
- bra size = bra sizes (not size’s- see the sign above)
- marital problem = marital problems (not problem’s- see snippet below)
- mouth = mouths
- handjob = handjobs
- butt plug = butt plugs
- ménage à trois = ménages à trois (à trois doesn’t change because ménage is the noun)
Check out this snippet:
“Then do you really want me to be gentle?” I ask as I pull my fingers from her. I look down to see the creamy hole slowly close back. I know it will take very little to open it back up.From The Therapist Is In by M.S. Tarot.
And I’m not very little.
I see her fingers grip the far edge of my desk. I watch her slowly shake her head. I smile. She has always shown a reluctance to beg for what she really wants. I think it might be part of the problem’s she’s having with her husband.
Rule 2: When the noun ends in S, SH, CH, X or Z (you might have to double the -s or the -z, so if in doubt, look it up), you add -es.
- climax = climaxes
- ass = asses
- bitch = bitches
- penis = penises or penes (which I’ve never seen in writing). (Some people use penii (PEE-nee-i), but most reliable sources say not to. It’s like axis = axes, not like radius = radii.)
- fetish = fetishes
- buzz = buzzes (quiz = quizzes)
- anus = anuses
Rule 3: When the noun ends in F or FE , you change the F to a V and add -es. (Although there are some that can go either way- add an -s OR change the F to a V and add -es. If in doubt, look it up.)
- wife = wives
- wolf = wolves
- hoof = hooves or hoofs
- scarf = scarves or scarfs
- dwarf = dwarves or dwarfs
Rule 4: When the noun ends in the letter O, you usually add -s.
- video = videos
- photo = photos
- tattoo = tattoos
- typo = typos
Rule 4B: Nouns ending in O that you add -es. Just memorize this list. Or write it on a Post-it and put it near your computer. Or Google it.
- tomato = tomatoes
- potato = potatoes
- volcano = volcanoes
- hero = heroes
- echo = echoes
- torpedo = torpedoes
- veto = vetoes
- embargo = embargoes
Rule 4C: Nouns ending in O that could end in -s or -es and be correct. (But keep in mind, adding just -s is more common, so except for the words listed above in 4B, adding just -s is correct.)
- tornado = tornados or tornadoes
- mosquito = mosquitos or mosquitoes
- dildo = dildos or dildoes
Rule 5: When the noun ends in a VOWEL + the letter Y, add -s.
- toy = toys
- donkey = donkeys
- valley = valleys
- Friday = Fridays
- Sunday = Sundays
Rule 5B: When a COMMON noun ends in a CONSONANT + the letter Y, change the -y to -i and add -es.
- orgy = orgies
- pussy = pussies
- spy = spies
- pony = ponies
- puppy = puppies
- story = stories
- party = parties
Rule 5C: When a PROPER noun ends in a CONSONANT + the letter Y, add -s.
- (first or last name) Kennedy = Kennedys
- (girl’s name) Brandy = Brandys
- July = Julys
- January = Januarys
Rule 6: Irregular Nouns (Not really a rule. It’s really just a list.)
- man = men
- woman = women
- person = people
- child = children
- goose = geese (but moose = moose)
- mouse = mice (also louse = lice)
- tooth = teeth
- foot = feet
- die = dice
- ox = oxen
Rule 7: Nouns that don’t change singular to plural.
- series = series
- species = species
- fish = fish
- deer = deer
- sheep = sheep
- moose = moose
- buffalo = buffalo
- shrimp = shrimp
Rule 8: Words we borrowed from Latin and Greek. (Things get a little crazy here. Because really. How many of us know Latin or Greek?)
- focus = foci (also focuses)
- radius = radii (pronounced RAY-dee-i or just use radiuses)
- fungus = fungi
- nucleus = nuclei
- cactus = cacti
- alumnus = alumni (but we also have to take gender into account. These are masculine or mixed masculine/feminine.)
- alumna = alumnae (if the graduates are all women)
- octopus = octopuses (or octopi). Derived from Greek, so the plural would be octopedes, but for a long time, we assumed it was from Latin, so we used octopi. Stick with octopuses. (But you may have to explain this to a rogue grammar Nazi.) I wrote an octopus story once. Read it here, if you like.
- hippopotamus = hippopotami (or hippopotamuses) Or do what I do. Just use hippos.
Rule 9: When the noun ends in -is, change the -is to -es. )(You can’t just add -es to the -is this time. Not axises, crisises, analysises, or thesises.)
- axis = axes
- crisis = crises
- analysis = analyses
- thesis = theses
- penis = penes (or the more usual, penises)
Rule 10: When the noun is derived from Greek and ends in -on, change the -on to -a.
- phenomenon = phenomena
- criteron = criteria
Rule 11: When the noun ends in -um, change the -um to -a.
- datum = data
- rectum = recta (or rectums- more usual, I think.)
- medium = media
Rule 12: Ugh. Irregular nouns ending in -ix can change from -ix to -ices, but they don’t have to.
- index = indices (or indexes)
- appendix = appendices (or appendixes)
Rule 13: Acronyms and other collections of letters. Keep the acronym or abbreviation in capital letters and add a lowercase -s.
- PDF = PDFs
- DVD = DVDs
- STI = STIs (formerly STDs)
- BBC = BBCs
- BBW = BBWs
Practice with Quizlet
I taught French and Spanish for 25 years. One of the most useful sites I discovered was Quizlet. There are children on the site, so I can’t go crazy with dirty words, but I’ll make sets to help you practice using the tamer words. Try this Quizlet Test!
Or use the Speller option. Click on the OPTIONS= little white icon in the blue bar and select “Answer with Definition.” You’ll hear the singular word. You’ll type the plural.
You never, ever, ever use ‘s to make a noun plural. The only exception I’ve ever encountered is “do’s and don’ts.” The word “do” creates all kinds of confusion and controversy. The experts don’t even agree on how to make “do and don’t” plural, so don’t stress it. Just make sure you never make nouns plural by using ‘s. It NEVER works that way. `
Almost every noun follows a rule. Even if the noun breaks the rules (irregulars like man/men) or you have a choice of ways to make it plural, you have the option to Google it. Just type “make _____ plural,” and you’ll get your answer.
The most important thing is to recognize that there may be an irregularity to your noun. Maybe you always assumed you just add -s to make a noun plural. My hope is that now you know that you may have to look it up.
Or ask for help. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I won’t tell if you don’t.