Making It Plural: From -f or -fe to -ves!

Contributor: Jennifer Blanchard. Lesson ID: 13786

It seems like there can be so many tricky rules in the English language! What's the secret? This lesson will tell you the trick for making words that end in -f or -fe plural, or more than one!


Grammar, Phonics

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

When you have a plural, or more than one of something, that changes the way it is spelled and can completely change the word!

Here are some of the weirdest plural versions that trip people up!

The plural of beef, which is cow meat, is...beeves!

An opera is actually the plural form of the word opus. So whenever you are taking about a musical performance called an opera, you are actually talking about more than one!

The plural of nieces and of nephews is the same gender-neutral word...niblings! What?!

  • Can you think of any other strange ones?

Jot them down!

Then keep reading to see what this madness is all about!

  • Which of those plurals above sounded the funniest to you?

If you're like me, you're probably wondering how people come up with some of these words to use as plurals!

While this lesson can't help you with all of them, we will for sure master plurals for words ending in -f or -fe!

The rules for doing so are a little different than when you make other words plural!

Before we begin, let's review something important!

singular and plural birds

Okay, let's get started!

Watch Irregular Plural Nouns (f to ves) Teaching Video from Allegra Brown:

Image - Video

  • What did you learn from that video?

Let's recap the most important facts!

To make a plural of a word ending in -f:

change the f to a v and add es

To make a plural of a word ending in -fe:

change the f to a v, keep the e where it is, and add an s

Here are some examples:

calf becomes calves

leaf becomes leaves

knife becomes knives

life becomes lives

Looks simple enough, except that not ALL words ending in -f or -fe follow this rule for plurals. Yikes!

Here are some words that don't fit in with the rule!

  chef chefs
  surf surfs
  safe safes
  staff staffs
  ref refs
  proof proofs
  handcuff handcuffs
  giraffe giraffes
  cliff cliffs
  chief chiefs


There is no rhyme or reason to why those words don't follow the rules. They are just words you'll have to remember!

But don't worry. For the rest of this lesson, you will be working with the words that DO follow the rules we are practicing!

  • Do you think you've got this down?

Go to the Got It? section to see what's next!

Image - Button Next