Irregular French plural forms

On the previous page, we introduced the general rule to form the French plural of nouns and adjectives. On this page, we look at a few additional rules and irregularities.

Nouns and adjectives ending in -al

A number of French nouns and adjectives end in -al. The general rule is as follows:

Most nouns and adjectives ending in -al change this to -aux in the (masculine) plural.
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For example:

un journal
a newspaper
des journaux
(some) newspapers
un accord international
an international agreement
des accords internationaux
international agreements
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Sometimes in everyday spontaneous speech, French speakers "forget" this change on masculine plural adjectives and you may actually hear "des accords international(s)". However, in careful speech and writing, the accepted form is internationaux.

Note that in careful usage, this change applies only to the masculine; the feminine plural form of adjectives ending in -al is regular: des institutions internationales. As a "slip of the tongue" or "hypercorrection", you may occasionally hear French speakers say "des institutions internationaux"; however this is not the generally accepted feminine form and would be avoided in careful speech and writing.


There are a handful of adjectives ending in -al that actually have a "regular" plural ending in -als. These include notably:

AdjectiveMasculine plural
dance, ball
everyday, ordinary, banal
final, last
(finaux also sometimes used)

* On the other hand, the word initial ("first", "initial") has the masculine plural initiaux as expected.

Nouns and adjectives ending in -eau, -au and -eu

Nouns and adjectives ending in -eau, -au and -eu practically always form their plural in the spelling by adding an -x instead of an -s. This affects both the masculine plural form of adjectives and the plural of nouns, masculine or feminine. Notice that some of these words exist as loanwords in English, and in such cases English often adds an -x as well. For example:

le château
the château
les châteaux
the châteaux
le plateau
the tray/platter/plateau
les plateaux
the trays/platters/plateaux
un seau
a bucket
les seaux
the buckets
un beau paysage
a nice view
de beaux paysages*
nice views
le jeu
the game
les jeux
the games
son neveu
his/her nephew
ses neveux
his/her nephews
le tuyau
the pipe
les tuyaux
the pipes

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* The use of de, rather than des, is deliberate here: in formal French, de is usually used before a plural adjective instead of des, although des is becoming increasingly acceptable.


A notable exception to this rule is bleu, which has the plural form bleus. The words pneu ("tyre") and landau ("pram") also have regular plurals (pneus, landaus).

Nouns ending in -ail

There are a few nouns ending in -ail that have plurals ending in -aux. Probably the most common are:

mal (de tête) "(head)ache"maux (de tête)
travail "work"travaux "work(s), roadworks"
vitrail "stained glass window"vitraux

Note that mal in the sense of "bad", "ill" is usually invariable— i.e. it does not usually change its form in the plural (or feminine).

The word bail ("lease") also has the plural baux, but as it may be judged slightly strange-sounding, it is probably best avoided. For example, to say "leases", you can use locations à bail.

Most other nouns ending in -ail that you are likely to come across generally have regular plurals, e.g. les chandails, "the sweaters". The plural of the word ail ("garlic") is, if you need it, regular. (The archaic plural aulx listed in some dictionaries is practically never used in reality.)

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2017. All rights reserved.