Le pluriel: plural nouns in French grammar
What is le pluriel in French?
In French nouns can be singular or plural (pluriel). The plural form of a noun is usually formed by changing the article to les/des and adding an -s to the end of the word, however there are many exceptions!
Learn how to use plural nouns in French grammar with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.
l'argent (no plural)
How to form the plural of French nouns
The plural of most nouns is formed by adding an -s to the end of the word. This -s is silent: it is almost never pronounced aloud.
- le billet – les billetsthe banknote – the banknotes
Plurals ending in -x
Some nouns form their plural with an -x. This includes:
- nouns that end in -eau or -au
- un château – des châteauxa castle – castles
- nouns that end in -eu (except for pneu and bleutyre, blue)
- un cheveu – des cheveuxa hair – hair
- un pneu – des pneustyre – tyres
- nouns that end in -ou, such as genou, caillou, hibou, bijou, pou, chou, joujouknee, pebble, owl, a piece of jewellery, louse, cabbage, toy
- un genou – des genouxa knee – knees
- nouns that end in -al. The ending -al becomes -aux in the plural. The exceptions to this are: le bal, le cal, le carnaval, le chacal, le festival, le régaldance, callus, carnival, jackal, festival, treat, whose plurals are formed by adding an -s.
- un journal – des journauxa newspaper - newspapers
- but: un festival – des festivalsa festival - festivals
- nouns that end in -ail. The ending -ail becomes -aux in the plural. Examples include le bail, le corail, l’émail, le soupirail, le travail, le vitraillease, coral, email, basement window, work, stained glass window
- un vitrail – des vitrauxa stained-glass window - stained-glass windows
- but: un rail – des railsa rail/track - rails/tracks
Nouns that end in -s, -x or -z in the singular do not change in the plural.
- un pays – des paysa country – countries
- une noix – des noixa nut – nuts
- un nez – des neza nose – noses
Some plural forms are completely irregular.
- un oeil – des yeuxan eye – eyes
The plural of compound nouns in French
As their name suggests, compound nouns (les noms composés) consist of two or more words usually connected by a hyphen. The words that make up a compound noun can be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs or prepositions. It’s not always easy to form the plural of these nouns, but the following rules can help:
- If the compound noun includes an adjective, this always changes to agree with the plural.
- les grands-parentsgrandparents
- les longues-vuestelescopes
- les saules-pleureursweeping willows
- If the first word of the compound noun is grand, it only receives the plural -s in the masculine plural form.
- les grands-pèresgrandfathers
- les grand-mèresgrandmothers
- If the compound noun includes a verb, adverb or preposition, this remains unchanged in the plural.
- les porte-monnaiewallets, les lave-vaisselledishwasher, les sèche-cheveuxhairdryers (verb)
- les arrière-penséesulterior motives, les avant-gardesfrontliner (adverb)
- les arcs-en-cielrainbows, les gardiens de butgoalkeepers (preposition)
- In the majority of cases, nouns receive the plural -s, although there are some exceptions.
- les rouges-gorgesrobin redbreasts, les choux-fleurscauliflowers, les portes-fenêtresFrench doors, les bateaux-mouchestourist river boats on the Seine
- If the compound noun contains nouns that refer to a collective entity or uncountable nouns, these remain in the singular.
- les porte-monnaiewallets, les lave-vaisselledishwashers
- the nouns monnaie (money) and vaisselle (dishes) are uncountable and refer to collectives, meaning that they do not change in the plural
- des pommes de terrepotatoes
- the word terre (earth) refers to the soil in which the potatoes grow, meaning that it is uncountable and remains unchanged in the plural
- In some cases, whether or not the words within the compound noun are singular or plural depends on their meaning.
- une brosse à dentsa toothbrush
- The noun dents (teeth) is always used in the plural although the compound noun is singular. This is because we brush all our teeth, not just one.
- un chef-d’œuvre/des chefs-d’œuvremasterpiece/masterpieces
- The word œuvre refers to an abstact concept in this compound noun, meaning that it stays in the singular.