Essential French Grammar – Singular and Plural
Most nouns form their plural form in French just like they do in English: an –s is added at the end of the words. For example, une vache>des vaches "cows," and un livre> des livres "books".
However, the final –s in French plural nouns is not pronounced, except when an association is needed. Examples are: des femmes_aveugles (day fam za vuhgle) "blind women"; des gens étonnants (day jan-zayton ahn) "surprising people".
Even if the –s is not pronounced, it is easy to know if a word is plural or singular because articles and verbs agree with the nouns. The chart below shows the difference between singular and plural articles.
In front of a vowel
In front of a vowel
French has singular and plural pronouns just like English. This is how the subject pronouns change according to their number:
"on" is an informal replacement for "we," "you," "they," "someone," or "people in general."
"on" is a neuter singular pronoun, so there is no agreement.
There is no need for an additional –s if the singular form of a noun already ends in –s, in –x, or -z.
- un fils>des fils – "sons" ; une souris>des souris – "mice" ; un mois>des mois – "months" ; une fois>des fois – "times".
- une voix> des voix "voices"; un choix>des choix "choices" ; une toux>des toux "coughs".
- un nez>des nez "noses" ; un gaz>des gaz "gasses".
Some nouns are irregular, and do not follow the –s pattern, just like mouse>mice, and child> children in English. The most irregular forms are oeil>yeux "eyes," ciel>cieux "skies".
Other nouns and adjectives that are not formed with an –s have more predictable endings. They usually end in –x. This change does not affect the way those words are pronounced. The charts below show the most common patterns.
|Words ending in –x in their plural forms
| Nouns ending in –eau
||chapeau>chapeaux – "hats"
manteau>manteaux – "coats"
eau>eaux – "waters"
|Nous ending in -eu
||jeu>jeux – "games"
neveu>neveux – "nephews"
Exceptions: bleu / bleus – "bruises" or "blue"
Pneu / pneus – "tires"
|Several nouns ending –ou (there are seven of them)
||bijoux>bijoux – "jewels"
caillou>cailloux – "pebbles"
chou>choux – "cabbages"
pou>poux – "lice"
genou>genoux – "knee"
hibou>hiboux – "owl"
joujou>joujoux – "toy"
|Nouns ending in –au
||noyau>noyaux – "stone (of fruit)/ (core of)"
tuyau>tuyaux – "pipes"
|Nouns ending in –oeu
||vœu>vœux – "wishes"
|Plurals ending in –aux
| Nouns ending in –ail
||corail>coraux – "corals"
travail>travaux – "works"
|Nouns ending in –al or –ail
||journal>Journaux – "newspapers"
animal>animaux – "animals"
cheval>chevaux – "horses"
signal>signaux – "signals"
Exceptions : festivals, carnavals, bals.
Adjectives form their plural forms the same way as nouns do. Therefore, most of them end in –s. Some of them are formed with an –x, like nouveau>nouveaux, international>internationaux.
In rare cases, the plural is formed normally with an –s, but the pronunciation of the plural forms differs from the singular forms. For instance, the final –f of boeuf "bull" and of oeuf "egg" is sounded in the singular form, but is not pronounced in the plural boeufs and oeufs.
The rules are very complicated for compound nouns.
It is better to check the dictionary to see what their plural forms are. Examples: des beaux-pères "fathers in law" but des sèche-cheveux "hair dryers".
A few words are plural in French but not in English:
- les affaires – "business"
- les cheveux – "hair"
- les applaudissements – "applause"
- les bagages – "luggage"
- les ténèbres – "darkness"
- des renseignements – "information"
A few words are plural in English but not in French. Most of them are related to clothing:
- un short – "shorts"
- un pantalon –"trousers"
- un slip – "underpants"
- un jean – "jeans"