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How to form the plural of French nouns?

By: Agnés Finot Thu Mar 21 2024

Just like in English, the most basic way to form the plural of a noun in French is to add an -s. But, depending on the ending of some nouns, there are other possibilities.

Tes voisins ont un cheval ou deux chevaux ?

Do your neighbors have one horse or two horses?

When I first visited England, I arrived in the countryside and said to the lady who welcomed me, "I like the sheeps." You don’t want to make a similar mistake in French, do you? Or, what will you do when you want to form the plural of a compound word like l’arc-en-ciel(rainbow)?

In this post, we’ll review the different plural noun endings in French, along with exceptions, words that change meaning in the plural, and the plurals of compound nouns. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

    How to form plurals with the ending ‘-s’ in French?

    To form most plural forms of French nouns, you can simply add an -s at the end of the noun! This is the easiest of all rules and the one you will use the most.

    le sentier → les sentiers

    the trail → the trails

    la robe → les robes

    the dress → the dresses

    l’autocollant → les autocollants

    the sticker → the stickers


    Have you noticed that the French definite article (le/la/l') changes too, to take a plural form? Le → les. It could also be mes(my), leurs(their), des(some), etc.


    Most words ending in -ou take -s, however, there are seven particular words ending in -ou that take -x in the plural. I still remember learning these at elementary school, and all French pupils still learn them today! You can use this little rhyme to help you remember them:

    Viens mon chou, mon bijou, mon joujou, sur mes genoux, et jette des cailloux à ce hibou plein de poux!

    Come my darling, my jewel, my toy, on my lap, and throw pebbles at this lice-ridden owl!

    Certain words ending in -ail will change their plural to -aux. The one you will use the most is le travail → les travaux(the works).

    You can find more examples of French words ending in -ou and -ail that have irregular plurals in our list!

    The plural -s is silent 99 percent of the time. However, what happens with the structure plural noun + adjective starting with a vowel? You can make a liaison! Link the final consonant of the noun with the first vowel of the following adjective. When you do it, the -s takes the form of a /z/ sound:

    Mes voisins argentins sont très gentils.

    /vwazu(n) zarga(n)tu(n)/

    My Argentinian neighbors are very kind.

    Les glaces italiennes sont les meilleures !

    /glas zeetalyehn/

    Italian ice creams are the best!

    Generally, the more liaisons you make in French, the more formal you will sound. So you can choose if you do it or not!


    Let me help you with the words “eggs,” “steers,” and “bones” that are particularly tricky to pronounce in the plural:

    🥚 un œuf
    [/u(n)n euhf/]
    des œufs
    [/dayz euh/]

    don’t pronounce
    the -f/s.

    🐮 un bœuf
    [/u(n) beuhf/]
    des œufs
    [/dayz euh/]

    don’t pronounce
    the -f/s.

    🦴 un os
    [/u(n)n os/]
    des os
    [/dayz o/]

    don’t pronounce
    the s.

    👉 Watch this video to hear the difference between singular and plural.

    Sometimes, nouns will already end in an -s, an -x, or a -z. These nouns do not take an additional -s to form the plural.


    For nouns that end in -s, -x, or -z, you don’t need to do anything. The singular form and the plural form are exactly the same. Easy peasy, French is wieldy!
    le pays → les pays(the country → the countries)
    le nez → les nez(the nose → the noses)
    la noix → les noix(the walnut → the walnuts)


    Do not use an -s for family names! If you were to text your roommate to let him know that your friends “the Martins” are coming for a barbecue, you would say, “Les Martin viennent pour le barbecue !” This doesn't apply to dynasties like Les Tudors.

    Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s introduce the other possible form of plural.

    When to add an ‘-x’ to form the plural in French?

    Add an -x to form the plural for French nouns ending in -au, -eau, -eu, and -al. Here are the types of nouns that take -x instead of -s:

    Noun ending in...
    Exception words which take -s

    le noyau

    the pit

    les noyaux

    the pits

    les landaus

    baby carriages


    le drapeau

    the flag

    les drapeaux

    the flags

    - - -


    le jeu

    the game

    les jeux

    the games

    les pneus


    les bleus



    le journal

    the newspaper

    les journaux

    the newspapers

    les bals


    les carnavals


    les festivals


    les chacals


    le cheval

    the horse

    les chevaux

    the horses

    For more examples of exceptions, check out this list of French nouns irregular in the plural.

    Now let’s move on to some nouns that have a mind of their own.

    What are the exceptions when forming the plural in French?

    Of course, there are some exceptions of plurals, which require a completely new word in the plural form compared to the singular form. For example, what do you think the plural of un oeil(an eye) is? Les yeux ! 👀 Here’s some more examples of words that change in the plural:

    • monsieur → messieurs

      sir → gentlemen

    • madame → mesdames

      madam → ladies

    • mademoiselle → mesdemoiselles

      miss → ladies

    This is because these words contain a possessive pronoun. For example mon + sieur(my + sir). The plural form of mon being mes, it naturally becomes messieurs!

    Some French words only exist in the plural. The following words are always plural:

    • les affaires


    • les renseignements

      information office

    • les vacances


    What do you notice above between the French and the English words? I’m sure you have guessed it right. The English words are always singular! I recommend this article which has an exhaustive list of English singular words that are always plural in French, and vice versa.

    Some categories of French words always remain singular:

    • collective nouns which refer to a substance: le lait(milk), l'or(gold)

    • abstract nouns: la beauté(beauty)

    • nouns referring to arts and science:la chimie(chemistry)

    For more info on these singular words, I recommend this article .

    Finally, there are a few nouns with which you need to be careful.

    Which words change their meaning in the plural form in French?

    Some French words change their meaning in the plural form. The words in the examples below can keep their original meaning in the plural form, but they also may have a different meaning in another context.

    Le chef prépare la pâte à pizza.

    The chef is preparing the pizza dough.

    On mange des pâtes au fromage.

    We’re eating pasta with cheese.

    Regarde, le bébé tigre fait sa toilette !

    Look, the baby tiger is having a wash!

    Où sont les toilettes, s’il vous plaît ?

    Where are the restrooms please?

    Il a accumulé les échecs cette année.

    He made a string of failures this year.

    Le jeu de la Dame est une série sur les échecs.

    The Queen’s Gambit is a series about chess.

    This article shows the most common French nouns that can have different meanings in the plural.

    Let’s review one final point: compound nouns.

    How do you form the plural of compound nouns in French?

    To form the plural of compound nouns in French, you can add the plural to both words, one word only, or no word at all! But, what is a compound noun? It’s two words combined into one. For example, in English, the words “sandstorm” or “flash flood” are compound nouns. In French, you will notice that the two words are often linked by a hyphen, but they can also be linked by a preposition.

    un casse-tête

    brain teaser

    une pomme de terre


    So, how do you know what to do? It is very important to recognize the types of words that form your compound noun to apply the correct rule. We are going to look at the following compound word combinations:

    • noun + noun

    • noun + adjective

    • noun + preposition + noun

    • adverb or preposition + noun

    • noun + verb

    How to form the plural of a “noun + noun” compound word in French?

    To form the plural of a noun + noun compound French word, add the plural form to both words.

    le chou-fleur → les choux-fleurs(cauliflowers)

    le balai-brosse → les balais-brosses(scrub brushes)


    Nouns that function as complements stay singular:

    les années-lumière

    light years

    la lumièreis a complement of année.

    les pauses-café

    coffee breaks

    les timbres-poste

    postage stamps

    How to form the plural of a “noun + adjective” compound word in French?

    To form the plural of a noun + adjective compound word in French, add the plural form to both words.

    le grand-parent → les grands-parents

    grandparent → grandparents

    la grand-mère → les grands-mères

    grandmother → grandmothers

    ↳Did you notice that grand doesn’t take the feminine ending -e in grand-mère ?

    le coffre-fort → les coffres-forts

    safe → safes

    le beau-frère → les beaux-frères

    brother-in-law → brothers-in-law


    If the first word ends in -o, it stays singular. The second words will take the plural form.

    le micro-onde → les micro-ondes

    microwave → microwaves

    The adjective demi(half) stays singular.

    la demi-journée → les demi-journées

    half day → half days

    We have seen that, in the case of a noun with a noun or a noun with an adjective, generally both words will take the plural form. In the other combinations that follow, only one of the two words will take the plural form.

    How to form the plural of a “noun + preposition + noun” compound word in French?

    To form the plural of a noun + preposition + noun compound word in French, only the first noun will take the plural form.


    l’arc-en-ciel → les arcs-en-ciel

    rainbow → rainbows


    le chef-d'œuvre → les chefs-d’œuvre

    masterpiece → masterpieces

    In fact, here œuvre (piece of work) is singular for two reasons: because of the preposition d' and because œuvre is the life work of an artist and is an uncountable noun, so it stays singular.


    These noun + preposition + noun compound words always stay singular:

    • les pot-au-feu(traditional beef stew)

    • les rez-de-chaussée(first floors)

    • les tête-à-tête(one to one[lit.] head to head)

    How to form the plural of an “adverb or preposition + noun” compound word in French?

    To form the plural of adverb/preposition + noun compound words, only the noun takes the plural form. For example:


    l'en-tête → les en-têtes

    heading → headings


    l'avant-première → les avant-premières

    preview → previews

    Are you still following? I’m sure you are! Let's look at our final combination.

    How to form the plural of a “noun + verb” compound word in French?

    To form the plural of noun + verb compound words in French, the verb stays singular and only the noun takes the plural.

    from verb

    le tire-bouchon → les tire-bouchons

    corkscrew → corkscrews

    tirecomes from the verb tirer(to pull).

    Now, in some cases, it gets a bit tricky because you have to think about the nature of the noun. If it is uncountable, it will remain singular.

    Let's look at the following example together.

    le chasse-neige → les chasse-neige

    snow plow → snow plow

    ↳only the article (les) shows the word is plural.

    Now that we’ve covered compound noun plurals, let’s review what we’ve learned.

    Let’s recap

    To form the plural form of French nouns, keep the following points in mind:

    • Adding -s is the most common form of forming plurals.

    • Nouns ending in -au , -eau , and -eu form their plural with an -x.

    • Nouns ending in -al take -aux.

    • There are a few odd nouns worth learning by heart, like les yeux or mesdames!

    • When forming the plural of compound nouns, remember this table:

      Compound noun formation
      Plural form

      noun + noun

      Both words take the plural form.

      noun + adjective

      noun + preposition + noun

      Only the first noun takes the plural.

      adverb or preposition + noun

      Only the noun takes the plural.

      noun + verb

    Ready to practice what you’ve learned? Check out our activities on French plural forms!

    Downloadable Resources

    Elevate your language-learning journey to new heights with the following downloadable resources.

    How to form the plural of French nouns~ActivitiesHow to form the plural of French nouns~Activities

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