irregular plurals old english

Irregular Plurals

From Old English, Greek, and Latin


Singular and Plural Nouns

In terms of quantity, nouns take on singular or plural forms. Singular nouns indicate one person or thing. Plural nouns refer to two or more persons or items.

The plurals of English nouns are further divided in “regular” and “irregular” forms.

Regular Plural Nouns

Regular plural nouns are formed by affixing –s, –es, or –ies to their singular forms. Most nouns have regular plural forms.

 Regular plural noun = (singular noun)-s/-es/-ies  


Singular Forms Plural Forms
pineapple pineapples
beaver beavers
piano pianos
wish wishes
watch watches
fish fishes
hero heroes
body bodies

Irregular Plural Nouns from Old English

Irregular plurals do not adhere to the “s-rule”. Instead they follow a miscellany of patterns.

The plurals of some nouns, in this case from Old English, are formed by a vowel change or taking on additional letters:

Singular Plural
woman women
man men
child children
ox oxen
foot feet
goose geese
tooth teeth
mouse mice
person persons, people

Greek and Latin Plural Forms

Loan words in English from foreign sources (mainly Greek and Latin) sometimes retain their original plurals. These include the following:

Singular Plural
alumnus alumni
cactus cacti, cactuses
analysis analyses
crisis crises
bacterium bacteria
medium media

Exercise. Respond to the following

1. The King summoned the Pied Piper to court. Why?
2. You should eat lots of vegetable, while avoiding sweets, candies and desserts. Why?
3. What can you say about someone who plays very awkward basketball or football?

Answer the following Questions

Or respond to the statements. Say if they are true, not true/false, yes, no, yes and no, sometimes, maybe, it depends, in the middle, possibly, I agree, I disagree. Say why and give examples.

1. Geese fly in a “V” formation. Why do geese fly in a “V” formation? Who is at the front of the “V”?

2. People in pre-industrial, traditional societies (without dentists) have perfect, pearly-white teeth.

3. Is it “okay” or “ethical” to use mice in laboratory experiments? What about monkeys? People?



4. Young children should not be allowed to watch TV, eat snack foods or use cell phones.

5. Most success in big business has to do with contacts and networking among university alumni.

6. Women dominate the education industry; men dominate construction and transportation (trucking and shipping).

7. In the future, farmers will go back to using oxen to plow (plough) fields and transport goods.

8. Which is better, the metric system or SI (Systeme International d’Unites or International System of Units), or imperial system (the feet-pounds-gallon system)? Are there still vestiges of an older, traditional system in your country?

9. What sort of statistical analyses does your school, company or organization conduct?

10. The presence of most bacteria and viruses are not the primary concern; they’re everywhere. It’s the body’s immune system that matters more.

11. Cacti (cactuses) are a popular ornamental plant in my city.

12. There are too many negative reports in the media: accidents, crime, natural disasters, political scandals, wars. There needs to be more positive, uplifting stories.

13. When written in Chinese, the word for “crisis” is compose of two characters: one represents danger—the other opportunity.


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