Plural of Life

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The Quick Answer
The plural of life is lives.

The Plural of Life

The plural of life is lives.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (Martin Luther King Jr)
  • Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must live. (Charles Bukowski)
The noun life 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 ()
donkey
add s storeys
donkeys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
life
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
lives
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 Life?

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.
  • Leaf becomes leaves.
Some just add s. For example:
  • Safe becomes safes.
  • Chief becomes chiefs.
With some words, both versions are accepted. For example:
  • Scarf becomes scarfs or scarves.
  • Dwarf becomes dwarfs or dwarves.
The plural of life is always lives. Unfortunately, there is no clever way of knowing which nouns ending f or fe follow which rules. You have to know.
Another Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from another exercise on plurals, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Unusual pluralsPlural forming table Quirks with forming plurals Forming the plurals of abbreviations Forming the plurals of compound nouns