French Plural Nouns
Non-native speakers often complain about just how difficult French grammar is (compared to English). In this article I will explain how to conjugate plural nouns (nom au pluriel).
Much like in English, in order to indicate the plural form of a noun you quite simply add an –s suffix. For example:
Un arbre (a tree)→Trois arbres (three trees)
Un enfant (a child)→Les enfants (the children)
This isn’t case for all French nouns. In order to conjugate your nouns properly, pay attention to the ending of your noun.
Nouns that naturally end with an “s”, “x” or “z” remain exactly the same in their plural form. For example:
Un refus (a refusal) Des refus (some refusals)
Un nez (a nose) Des nez (some noses)
Un prix (a price) Des prix (some prices)
All of the three nouns above end with either an “s”, “x” or “z” in their singular form. Notice how they remain exactly the same in their plural form.
Additional Plural Forms -al, –eau, -au, -eu
Nouns ending with –al see their suffix turn to –aux in the plural form. Once again, let’s look at some examples:
Un cheval (a horse) Les chevaux (the horses)
There are, however, some exceptions to this rule (singular/plural):
Aval/avals, bal/bals, cal/cals, carnaval/carnavals, chacal/chacals, festival/festivals, naval/navals, pal/pals, récital/récitals, régal/régals.
Simply add an “s” for the plural form of those exceptions.
Nouns ending with –eau, -au, -eu change to –eaux, -aux, -eux, in their plural form.
Some examples :
Un tuyau (a pipe), les tuyaux (the pipes)
Un feu (a fire), les feux (the fires)
Once again, there are some exceptions to this rule. When it comes to the following exceptions, simply add an “s” to the singular form to turn them into the plural form (singular/plural).
Landau/Landaus, sarrau/sarraus, bleu/bleus, pneu/pneus,
Additional Plural Forms – ail and -ou
Let’s move on to words ending with –ail. In order to make them plural, add an “s” to the plural form.
Un détail (a detail), des details (some details)
There are six exceptions to this rule.
Bail/baux, corail/coraux, émail/émaux, soupirail/soupiraux, travail/travaux, vitrail/vitraux.
Finally, let’s talk about nouns ending with –ou. To get the plural form of those nouns, simply add an “s” to the singular form.
Un fou (a crazy person) Des fous (some crazy people)
Some exceptions (yes, again!):
Bijou/Bijoux, caillou/cailloux, chou/choux, genou/genoux, hibou/hiboux, joujou/joujoux, pou/poux.
From the get-go, this might seem fairly complicated. It’s actually pretty simple once you understand that paying attention to the ending of your noun is crucial. Other than that, it’s all about memorizing the few exceptions to the rules stated above.
Test Your Understanding
I will conclude this article by testing your understanding of the rules with a short exercise.
Note that the following exercise is also available as a downloadable file for you to print it and do it the old fashioned way.
Errata: Note that in the downloadable ”tuyau” should not be written ”tuyeaux”.
Write down the plural form of the following nouns. You can find the answers in the next section. All different types of noun endings are mixed together.
Eau : eaux
Naval : navals
Prix : prix
This post is part of the series: French Plural Form
- Learn the Plural Form of French Nouns (Made Easy!)
- Understanding the Plural Form of French Compound Nouns
- Oral French: Linking Sounds
- Introduction to French Adjectives: Qualifying Adjectives