Usually, when we have more than one of something, we would show this by adding an s to the end of a word.
For example, you can have one book or two books.
The plural of feedback is “feedback”. It is NOT “feedbacks”.
“Feedback” doesn’t have a plural word, the plural of “feedback” is “feedback”. This is because we wouldn’t ever say “I have one feedback”, we would say “I have some feedback”
Today, I want to look at some of the rules of plurals that your English teacher didn’t teach you, as well as finding out why feedback breaks the standard rules, and how other languages compare to our own.
At the end of this article, you’ll know how to pluralise (more or less) any word in the English language.
The rules of Plurals
Let’s start by looking at the rules.
Rule #1 that applies to most nouns, is simply “add an S”. Books, bottles, apples, bears.
If a word ends in s, you pluralise it by adding “es”.
“Air and fire are both gases”.
If a word ends in o, we will either put an “s” or an “es”. Check out this other article that explains it a bit more.
Words that don’t need pluralising are masses—for example, sand and water. You wouldn’t say “two sands” or “two waters”.
When we say “masses” we’re talking about things that blend to make something bigger, rather than two.
If I have a book, and you give me another book, I will have two separate books.
However, if I have water, and you give me more water, I will just have more water, I won’t have two waters.
You can apply the same rules to sand and moss.
Whilst we can say “two glasses of water”, the noun we are pluralising is “glass” not water. Similarly, we can say “grain/pile of sand” or “patch of moss”. But we can’t say “two sands” or “two mosses”.
Is Feedback a mass?
This leads to an interesting point about “feedback”. Does it count as a mass?
With sand, water, and moss, you can pick all of them up. They are physical objects that will grow if you add more to them.
However, even though “feedback” isn’t a physical mass, it’s a mass of information. If you give me feedback on this article, and someone else gives me feedback too, I wouldn’t have “two feedbacks”, I would have “more feedback”.
We can apply the same to the words “advice” and “information”. You can’t have “two advices”, you can only have “more advice”.
Rule of thumb
If you would be able to say, “I have one X”, add an “s” at the end.
You can say “I have one book”, so you should say “I have two books”.
The rule also applies to non-physical things such as quotes, questions, or lyrics.
However, if you would need to say “I have one Y of X”, it’s likely a mass. And therefore no “s” is required to pluralise.
“I have one glass of water.
“I have one grain of sand.”
“I have one piece of feedback”.
Being English, there will be words that break this rule, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
Words that break the rules
There are also other words that break the plural rules. Here are some of them.
First, we have “sheep”. Because we would say “I have one sheep”, we should say “I have two sheeps”. But we don’t!
Earlier I said we shouldn’t pluralise words where you would have “One Y of X”. But you wouldn’t usually have one X of furniture. Yet it’s still wrong to say “I have two furnitures”.
“Geese” seems to break all the rules. You have one goose but two geese.
This just goes to show how hard the English language must be for new learners.
With the word “feedback”, we seem to have done something more common in German than it is in English.
We have taken two words and combined them to create a new word.
“Feed” is another way of saying “information”, and “back” is another way of saying “return”.
When you give feedback to someone, you are returning their information.
We don’t usually think of “feedback” as being a combination of two different words, but when you take a minute, it does make perfect sense that we would do so.
One language that’s even more difficult to learn the plurals for is German.
If a word succeeds “Der”, we would sometimes replace “der” with “die”, add an umlaut, and add an “e” at the end.
The cook is “Der Koch” but The cooks is “Die Köche”.
Words that start with “Das” and don’t end in “e” have an umlaut added, “er” put on the end, and “das” become die.
The house is “Das Haus”, but the houses are “Die, Hauser”.
If a word starts with “Das” but ends in an e, you add an “n” to the end.
The eye is “Das Auge” but the eyes are “Die Augen”.
Words stolen from English use our rule of having an “s” on the end.
The radio is “Das Radio”, but the radios is “Die radios”.
And other words break the rules.
The uncle is “Der Onkel”, but the uncles is “Die Onkel”.
In Chinese, no words are pluralised. Translated literally, you would have “One book or Two Book”.
“Feedbacks” is not a word that would make sense to an English speaker. This is because you don’t have “One feedback” you would either have “Some feedback” or “One piece of feedback”.
The key rules of plurals are.
1a. If you would say “I have one X” add an S on the end.
1b. If the word ends in S, add “es” on the end.
1c. If the word ends in o, either add “s” or “es” on the end.
2. If you would say “I have one Y of X”, you don’t pluralise.
3. Some words stick their middle fingers at the rules such as Geese, furniture, and sheep.