Plural of Calf

by Craig Shrives

The Quick Answer

The plural of calf is calves.

The Plural of Calf

The plural of calf is calves.
  • When calves are two months old, they are branded and ear marked. correct tick
  • Veal calves are reared entirely on milk formula and killed at 18 or 20 weeks as white veal. correct tick
The noun calf adheres to the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English (shown in the table below).

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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 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 (small British flag)
donkey
add s storeys
donkeys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
calf
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
calves
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
Read more about English spelling rules.

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Calf?

There is confusion because the rule for forming the plurals of nouns ending f isn't straightforward. Most nouns will drop the f and gain a ves. For example:
  • Loaf becomes loaves.
  • Leaf becomes leaves.
Some just add s. For example:
  • Roof becomes roofs.
  • Chief becomes chiefs.
With some words, both versions are accepted. For example:
  • Scarf becomes scarfs or scarves.
  • Dwarf becomes dwarfs or dwarves.
The plural is always calves. Unfortunately, there is no clever way of knowing which nouns ending f follow which rules. You have to know. (For example, you have to know that gulf becomes gulfs, but calf becomes calves.)

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