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An exercise in using plurals

April 21, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

My 7-year-old daughter wrote this sentence on one of her homework papers Easter weekend: "George Washington Carver studys plants."

As we were checking her work together, I first mentioned the good things about the sentence she wrote.

It started with a capital letter. Good.

It ended with a period. Good.

It contained a subject and a verb. Very good.

Carver's name was spelled correctly. Good.

There was just one little detail that would make the sentence better.

When my daughter made "study" agree with the subject, George Washington Carver, she forgot to change the "y" to "i" and add "es."

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Her sentence should have read, "George Washington Carver studies plants."

Technically, her older brother noted, the sentence should have used the past tense form "studied" because Carver died in 1943.

I nodded, winked and directed him back to his own work.

We'll work on tenses next month.

For now, I just want to concentrate on plural nouns.

A noun is a word that refers to a person, place or thing. While simply adding "s" to many nouns will change a singular word to plural, there are many words that are exceptions to this rule. Here are a few of those:

  • For nouns ending in "y," preceded by a vowel, add "s." Examples: turkey becomes turkeys; way becomes ways

  • For nouns ending in "y," not preceded by a vowel, change the "y" to "i" and add "es." Examples: activity becomes activities; sky becomes skies

  • If a word ends in "s," "x," "z," "ch" or "sh," add "es" to make it plural. Examples: glass becomes glasses; bunch becomes bunches

  • Most words ending in "f" are made plural by adding "s." Examples: reef becomes reefs; belief becomes beliefs

  • For some words ending in "f" or "fe," change the "f" to "v" and add "s" or "es." Examples: half becomes halves; loaf becomes loaves

  • For words ending in "o" preceded by a consonant, add "es." Examples: hero becomes heroes; echo becomes echoes

  • For musical words ending in "o," only add "s." Examples: banjo becomes banjos; alto becomes altos

  • For words ending in "o" preceded by a vowel, add "s." Examples: patio becomes patios; studio becomes studios

  • The plurals of some words are formed in irregular ways. Examples: man becomes men; child becomes children.

  • Some words are in the same form for singular and plural usage. Examples: sheep, salmon, moose



How well do you know your plurals? Circle the letter of the correct sentence in each of these:

1. a) During the robbery, the thiefs displayed their knives.

b) During the robbery, the thieves displayed their knifes.

c) During the robbery, the thieves displayed their knives.

2. a) Mom arranged the sliced tomatoes on top of the salad.

b) Mom arranged the sliced tomatoe on top of the salad.

c) Mom arranged the sliced tomatos on top of the salad.

3. a) The musicians played pianos and celloes in trios.

b) The musicians played pianoes and cellos in trioes.

c) The musicians played pianos and cellos in trios.

4. a) The oxen ran over the gooses' feets.

b) The oxen ran over the geese's feet.

c) The oxes ran over the geeses' feet.

5. a) How many waltzs did you dance on the patios?

b) How many waltzes did you dance on the patioes?

c) How many waltzes did you dance on the patios?

6. a) Did you see any deer when you were fishing for trout?

b) Did you see any deers when you were fishing for trouts?

c) Did you see any deer when you were fishing for trouts?

Answers:

1. c

2. a

3. c

4. b

5. c

6. a




Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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