Plural of Phenomenon

The Quick Answer

The plural of "phenomenon" is "phenomena."

The Plural of Phenomenon

The plural of "phenomenon" is "phenomena."
  • The phenomena of light refraction and reflection are still being studied. correct tick
  • The phenomena observed in this study were significant. correct tick
The noun "phenomenon" has a Greek root, which is the derivation of the plural "phenomena."

Table of Contents

  • Are You Good at Plurals?
  • The Standard Rules for Forming the Plurals
  • Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Phenomenon?
  • Ready for the Test?
plural of phenomenon, phenomena or phenomenons

Are You Good at Plurals?

Here's a quick test.
Getting ready...

The Standard Rules for Forming the Plurals

The table below shows the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English.
Type Example of Type Forming the Plural Plural
Most Nouns dog
scythe
add s dogs
scythes
Noun Ending s, sh, ch, x or z box
dress
add es boxes
dresses
Nouns ending [consonant] o hero
zero
tomato
add either s or es
(There are no rules for this - you have to know.)
heroes
zeros
tomatoes
Nouns ending [vowel] o patio
ratio
add s patios
ratios
Nouns ending [consonant] y story
penny
change the y to an i and add es stories
pennies
Nouns ending [vowel] y donkey
chimney
add s donkeys
chimneys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
hoof
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
hooves or hoofs
Exceptions man
louse
some nouns undergo a vowel or letters change men
lice
More exceptions salmon
sheep
some nouns do not change at all salmon
sheep
Foreign rulings phenomenon
medium
some nouns adopt foreign rulings phenomena
media
Read more about English spelling rules.

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Phenomenon?

Confusion arises over the plural of "phenomenon" because its original plural form ("phenomena") derives from Greek, and native English speakers are drawn to "phenomenons," which adheres to the standard ruling for forming plurals.

While many will consider "phenomenons" a spelling error, the situation is more complicated than that because "phenomenons" is gradually creeping into the language as an acceptable plural. The confusion is compounded by the following guidance, which is offered by a number of sources (most notably the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary): "Phenomenon" has two possible plurals, depending on the meaning of "phenomenon":
  • "Phenomena" is the far more common plural. It is used when "phenomenon" means "an observable fact or event."
  • "Phenomenons" is a rare plural. It is used when "phenomenon" means "an exceptional, unusual, or abnormal person, things, or occurrence."
This view is not widely shared. The major grammar references (e.g., Oxford Canadian Dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style) only list "phenomena" as the plural of "phenomenon." Our advice? Use only "phenomena."
author logo

This page was written by Craig Shrives.