How to form the plural (of nouns and adjectives) in French

Plural forms are forms that refer to "more than one" of something. In English, nouns are usually marked as being plural by adding -s or -es: one book, two books; this blue box, these blue boxes. Notice that in English, adjectives like blue don't change between singular and plural. But in French, adjectives are also marked as being singular or plural. There are a few other types of words that mark a difference between singular and plural. For example, we changed this to these. However, on this page, we will be concerned with the plural of nouns and adjectives.

The most common rule for forming the plural of nouns and adjectives in French is actually very simple:

  • add a final -s in the spelling to mark a noun or adjective as plural;
  • if you have a plural adjective followed by a plural noun, then pronounce the final -s on the adjective if the noun begins with a vowel.

We'll explain these rules in more detail below, and look at some exceptions.

General rule: add -s in the spelling

Usually, the plural form of nouns and adjectives is straightforward in French: you just need to remember to add an -s to both the noun and any adjective(s) that might be alongside it. For example, recalling that les (as opposed to le or la) is the French for "the" in the plural:

SingularPlural
le livre
the book
les livres
the books
la chaise
the chair
les chaises
the chairs
le gros livre
the big book
les gros livres
the big books
le livre rouge
the red book
les livres rouges
the red books
la grande maison
the large house
les grandes maisons
the large houses

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(Notice in these examples the position of the adjective: some basic size adjectives usually go before the noun, whereas colour adjectives normally go afterwards.)

Words already ending in -s or -x

In the examples above, we slipped in the word gros ("big", "bulky") which actually already ends in -s in the singular. Where a noun or adjective ends in -s in the singular, no further -s is added in the plural. The same is true of words ending in -x, for example:

le prix the price/prize
les prix the prices/prizes
la voix the voice
les voix the voices
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When to pronounce the plural -s

In general, the plural -s in French, like many final consonants, isn't pronounced. However, a notable exception is where you have a plural adjective followed by a noun beginning with a vowel. In such cases, the final -s of the adjective (but not the noun) is pronounced, as a [z] sound:

les grands arbres
the large trees
les jeunes Américains
young Americans
mes meilleurs amis
my best friends
ces petits enfants
these small children
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In these examples, we have also used the plural forms ces, "these", and mes ("my"). Although in English, the word my doesn't change between singular and plural, in French it does: see the page on how to say my in French for more information.

Where things are the other way round— a plural noun followed by a plural adjective— then the final -s on the noun may be pronounced where the following adjective begins with a vowel.

For the purpose of pronunciation, a final -x behaves as though it was an -s.

Irregularities

The simple rule of adding -s doesn't actually work in all cases. On the next page, we look at some irregularities in forming the plural in French.

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.