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English Grammar Lesson – Unusual Plural Forms November 16th, 2018

Last month, we talked about the common rules for creating plural forms from singular nouns. But as we said: there are always exceptions to the rule. Consider these very unusual, extra fancy, pluralizations of lesser-used words below:

Typically a noun in English is modified by putting an adjective before it. If I take the noun snack, I might modify it with the adjective small snack or delicious snack. In school, we learn that adjectives modifying nouns must go in front. However, every now and then you will see an adjective that comes after the noun. This happens when we borrow words from other languages, such as French and Latin, as well as when we use some noun-adjective compounds to indicate significance, importance, or authority. But then how do you pluralize a noun that comes in front?

Well, you pluralize the noun! It might feel or even look a bit backward, but check out the examples below.

Singular Form {noun + adjective} > Plural Form
Surgeon general > Surgeons general
Senator elect > Senators elect
Notary public > Notaries public
Heir apparent > Heirs apparent
Poet laureate > Poets laureate
Cul-de-sac > Culs-de-sac
Right-of-way > Rights-of-way
Father-in-law > Fathers-in-law
Editor-in-chief > Editors-in-chief

Unless you’re quite familiar with French or Latin, some of those words might look a bit alien to you. Remember that the English language is composed of a variety of words borrowed from Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and more! How can one possibly learn the English language? Well, the more you study, the more you read, and the more you pay attention, the better your own language skills become! Keep going because you’re doing great!