Plural of Compound Nouns With Examples

Plural of Compound Nouns With Examples

Another category of nouns are plural nouns. In the English language, most plural nouns are formed by adding -s or -es to the singular form. However, there are many exceptions, as we will see below.

Using -s or -es to Form the Plural Noun:

Here are some example where the suffix -s or -es can be used to form the plural of a noun.

Notably, we must use the plural verb in these cases, as well.

Forming the Plural of Compound Nouns:

A compound noun is a made up of more than one word. Before understanding how to form the plural, it is important to first see the variety of ways that compound nouns can be created in the English language.

Structure Example
noun + noun bus stop
noun + adjective mouthful
adjective + noun blueberry
verb (ing) + noun swimming pool
noun + verb (ing) haircut
verb + preposition check-out
noun + preposition passer-by
preposition + noun underwater
noun + preposition + noun mother-in-law

You may notice that compound nouns can be spelled with one word only (mouthful), while others use two words (swimming pool) or employ hyphens (e.g. passer-by).
Forming the plural of compound nouns is generally done by adding an 's' (or -es) to the principal word. Thus, you must first locate the most significant word in the compound noun (this principal word is also called the head noun). This head noun, or most significant word, gives us the information about what the compound refers to.

Here are some examples of how plural compound nouns can be created once you identify the head:

Compound noun head plural
sister-in-law sister sisters-in-law
blackberry berry blackberries
bus driver driver bus drivers
haircut cut haircuts
swimming pool pool swimming pools

There is a different situation when the compound nouns ends with '-ful' (e.g. mouthful, truckful, or handful). In this case, the noun may have two possible plurals and the -s can be added to either the head noun or to -ful, as long as one is consistent in use.

  • Add plural form to the head noun:
    mouthful, trucksful, spoonsful, handful, cupsful
  • Add plural form to '-ful’:
    mouthfuls, truckful, spoonfuls, handfuls, cupfuls
  • In the case of a compound made up by a noun and a preposition, (such as passer-by), the nouns is the part that received the ‘s’ in order to make it plural.

    passer-by — passers-by

    Finally, there are some cases where none of the elements is a noun, as in “grown-ups” or “check-outs.” In theses cases, the plural is formed by adding 's' to the last word. For example, the compound noun “check-outs” is made up of the noun “check” and the preposition 'out'. The plural of “check-outs” is formed by adding 's' to 'out'.

  • grown-up — grown-ups
  • check-in — check-outs

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