How to make nouns plural

In French, as you now know, all nouns are either masculine or feminine and singular or plural. Nouns are plural when they refer to more than one thing or person. Making nouns plural in French can be a bit more complicated than English but it is not that complicated, there is a general rule and a few exceptions with specific plural endings…


General rule : adding an -s

Most French nouns are made plural by adding an -s to the singular :

une maison (a house)  des maisons (houses)

une fille (a girl)  des filles (girls)

le garçon (the boy)  les garçons (the boys)

un arbre (a tree)  des arbres (trees)

The pronunciation of this -s is actually easy because we don’t pronounce it, the final -s is indeed silent. This means that the singular and plural sound the same :

le touriste (luh too-reest) (the tourist)    les touristes (lay too-reest) (the tourists)

This is why spoken French usually distinguishes most singular and plural nouns by the pronunciation of the definite or indefinite article (lelal’lesununedes).

But there are a some exceptions…


-s, -x or -z endings

Nouns that end in -s-x or -z in the singular stay the same in the plural :

un Français (a Frenchman)  des Français (Frenchmen)

un virus (a virus)  des virus (viruses)

un choix (a choice)  des choix (choices)

le nez (the nose)  les nez (the noses)


-eau, -au or -eu endings

Nouns that end in -eau-au or -eu  take an -x in the plural :

un château (a castle)  des châteaux (castles)

un tableau (a painting)  des tableaux (paintings)

un tuyau (a pipe)  des tuyaux (pipes) 

un jeu (a game)  des jeux (games) 

This -x is not pronounced so it doesn’t change the pronounciation of these words.  Be careful because with the -eu ending you might find some exceptions to this rule : un pneu (a tire) des pneus (tires). 


-ou ending

The general rule (adding an -s) apply to nouns that end with -ou but seven nouns that end in -ou are irregular and take an -x instead of an -s : 

un bijou (a jewel)  des bijoux (jewels)

un caillou (a rock)  des cailloux (rocks)

un chou (a cabbage)  des choux (cabbages)

un genou (a knee)  des genoux (knees)

un hibou (an owl)  des hiboux (owls)

un joujou (a toy)  des joujoux (toys)

un pou (a louse) des poux (lice)


-al ending

Nouns that end in -al in the singular usually take -aux in the plural :

un animal (an animal) des animaux (animals)

un journal (newspaper) des journaux (newspapers) 

un hôpital  (a hospital) des hôpitaux (hospitals)

un cheval (a horse) des chevaux (horses)

But a few nouns add an -s :

le bal (the prom) les bals (the proms)

le carnaval (the carnival) les carnavals (carnivals)

le festival (the festival) les festivals (festivals) 


-ail ending

The general rule (adding an -s) apply to nouns that end with -ail :

un détail (a detail) des détails (details)

un éventail (a fan) des éventails (fans)

un rail (a rail) des rails (rails)

un portail (a gate) des portails (gates)

But a few nouns ending with -ail  take -aux in the plural :

un travail (a work) des travaux (works)

un bail (lease) des baux (leases)

un corail (a coral) des coraux (corals)

un vitrail (stained glass window) des vitraux (stained glass windows)


Irregular plurals :

Some nouns have irregular plurals :

un oeil (an eye) des yeux (eyes)

un monsieur (a sir) des messieurs (sirs)

une madame (a madam) des mesdames (madams)

la demoiselle (the young lady)  les mesdemoiselles (the young ladies)


Nouns with plural forms only

Some nouns are only used in the plural form :

les gens (people)

les environs (the surrounding area)

les mœurs (mores, manners)

les vacances (holidays)


Family names

Family names aren’t pluralized in French. For example, the Martins lose the –in French but keep the article : Les Martin.

Les Martin sont en voyage !  The Martins are on a trip !