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Plural of Shelf

The Quick Answer
The plural of shelf is shelves.

The Plural of Shelf

The plural of shelf is shelves.
  • The album is never finished until it's on the shelves! (Rita Ora)
  • Shelves are normally made of strong materials such as wood, bamboo, or steel.
The noun shelf adheres to the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English (shown in the table below).

Type Example of Type Forming the Plural Plural
Most Nouns lamp
scythe
add s lamps
scythes
Noun Ending s, sh, ch, x or z bus
dress
add es buses
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 storey ()
donkey
add s storeys
donkeys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
shelf
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
shelves
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

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Shelf?

There is confusion because the rule for forming plurals with nouns ending in f or fe isn't straightforward. Most nouns will drop the f or fe and gain a ves. For example:
  • Knife becomes knives.
  • Wolf becomes wolves.
Some just add s. For example:
  • Safe becomes safes.
  • Cliff becomes cliffs.
With some words, both versions are accepted. For example:
  • Scarf becomes scarfs or scarves.
  • Dwarf becomes dwarfs or dwarves.
The plural of shelf is always shelves. Unfortunately, there is no clever way of knowing which nouns ending f or fe follow which rules. You have to know. (For example, you have to know that shelf becomes shelves, but brief becomes briefs.)