39 plural forms that might confuse writers

There are some weird rules about making certain words plural. Take note so you never mistake them.

In the English language, there are exceptions to every rule.

Some of the most maddening exceptions occur with spelling rules. For instance, it’s “i before e except after c”—unless it’s the fourth Thursday and there’s a full moon, right?

So, let’s look at “weird” plurals. And I say “weird” because pluralization is not always about adding an “s.”

With the singular form listed first, here are some words you can’t make plural just by adding an “s”:

• syllabus
• syllabi

• diagnosis
• diagnoses

• radius
• radii

• stratum
• strati

• nucleus
• nuclei

• focus
• foci

• fungus
• fungi

• crisis
• crises

• criterion
• criteria

• index
• indices

• appendix
• appendices

• ox
• oxen

• schema
• schemata

• seraph
• seraphim

• tableau
• tableaux

• die
• dice

Other words simply break the rules. For example, words ending in “o” are generally made plural by adding an “es,” such as potato/potatoes. But what about:

• memo
• memos

• cello
• cellos

Or how about:

• knife
• knives

• roof
• roofs

Or even:

• goose
• geese

• mongoose
• mongooses


• man
• men

• woman
• women

• human
• humans

Then there are the words that are spelled the same in both the singular and plural form:

• deer
• moose
• sheep
• kudos
• premises
• shambles

And of course, there are words that are plural with no singular forms:

• alms
• amends
• doldrums
• pliers
• scissors
• shorts
• smithereens
• trousers

Readers, any other “weird plurals” to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is the author of the writing, editing, random thoughts blog, impertinentremarks.com.


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