Plural of Phenomenon

by Craig Shrives

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?

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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 dog
add s dogs
Noun Ending s, sh, ch, x or z box
add es boxes
Nouns ending [consonant] o hero
add either s or es
(There are no rules for this - you have to know.)
Nouns ending [vowel] o patio
add s patios
Nouns ending [consonant] y story
change the y to an i and add es stories
Nouns ending [vowel] y donkey
add s donkeys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
hooves or hoofs
Exceptions man
some nouns undergo a vowel or letters change men
More exceptions salmon
some nouns do not change at all salmon
Foreign rulings phenomenon
some nouns adopt foreign rulings phenomena
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."

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