Leafs or leaves: What is the plural of “leaf”?

When you have more than one leaf, you might have some people who say they have “two leaves” and others who say they have “two leafs”.

Leafs or leaves?

“Leaves” is the correct way of pluralising “leaf”. If you say “leafs”, you will be making a grammatical error. If you want to say “leaf’s”, you can do so when talking about possessions.

In this article, I want to talk about why “leaf” breaks the rule of “just add an S”, where the word comes from, how we define a leaf, as well as looking into some cool leaves around the world, and taking a quick peek into symbolism.

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How to pluralise words “leaf” and other words that end with -f

Most words, you would simply add an S to the end when you want to pluralise them. For example, you have one apple or two apples.

This can be the case for words that end in f or fe. For example, you have one roof but two roofs. You also have one belief but a collection of beliefs.

However, most words ending in f or fe have the f replaced with ves. You have one leaf but two leaves. One calf but two calves. One knife but two knives.

The if letter before the f is a vowel, just add s. If it’s a consonant, replace the f (or the fe) with ves.

This rule does not apply to words ending in double f. You will have two cliffs, not two clives or two clifves.

Why do we have these rules?

This rule seems pointless. And to be honest, it is. But it’s still useful to know why we have it.

English is an old language that has evolved over time. And during middle and Old English, words were spelt phonetically, as there was no such thing as “correct spelling”.

When you say “leafs”, you will find that it naturally sounds like “leaves”. However, when you say “beliefs”, it doesn’t sound like “believes”.

Even though language changed, and correct spelling became a thing, these rules have still stuck with us.

When you can say “leaf’s”

Even though you won’t be able to say “leafs”. There are some situations where you could say “leaf’s”- when you’re talking about things which are owned by a leaf.

I know some of you may be thinking that as inanimate objects, leaves can’t have possessions. 1. yes they can and 2. Possessions don’t need to be physical.

For example, I might tell you “This leaf’s veins look beautiful”. Veins are a material thing that a leaf possesses.

I could also say “This leaf’s history is very interesting”. History is not something you can pick up, but it’s still something you can have.

Origin of the word “leaf”

Most of the words in our language are not the same today as they were in Old English. This is not the case with “leaf”.

Ever since English has been a language, “leaf” has been a word.

We got this word from the Proto-Germanic word “Lauba”, which they got from the Proto-Indo-European word “Leub”.

Unlike many other words in the English Language, Leaf, Lauba, and Leub all mean the same thing.

Phrases with the word “leaf”

Idioms are always fun to talk about. And we have a few that talk about leaves.

When you get nervous about something, you could describe yourself as “shaking like a leaf”, this phrase comes from how leaves tend to shake a lot when it gets windy.

When someone is doing something better than you are, you might tell yourself to “take a leaf out of their book”. Which means to learn something from them, to make your life easier or better.

When you’ve not had the best past, but you want to make some changes for the better, you could say that you’re “turning over a new leaf”, which means to have a fresh start.

Why does leaf mean paper?

The word “leaf” in the past two phrases doesn’t refer to the big green things that we get from trees, but rather, they’re a nickname for a page or sheet of paper.

It’s an interesting story as to why we call a sheet of paper a leaf. The word paper comes from the Latin “pagina” which can mean either “leaf” or “sheet”.

This is because back then, paper was made by putting several vines together to create a rectangle. This is some of the earliest paper we know of.

Symbolism

In fiction, leaves can be used to represent a variety of different things.

Most of the time, when leaves are green, they represent the following.

Renewal. When a tree renews its leaves, it’s the beginning of a new season.

Revival. If you cut the leaves off, the tree will just grow more.

Fertility. A tree with leaves is fertile and able to reproduce.

Growth. If a tree has leaves, that means it’s still growing.

Dead lives, on the other hand, represent more negative things. Such as decay, death, and sadness.

In the Bible, fig leaves are used as a representation of shame.

Cool leaves

Most of the leaves we see in our day to day lives aren’t that interesting. But across the world, there are some which are insanely cool.

For example, in Madagascar, they have a plant called ” Mimosa pudica”, whose leaves fold in when you touch them.

Most people think cacti don’t have leaves. But they do. However, the leaves of a cactus don’t look like leaves, they’re skinny and very sharp. The cactus doesn’t need to try to get sun, so it’s leaves have become spikes.

Most leaves use photosynthesis, but there are some which also eat bugs. The best example of this is the Venus flytrap.

Conclusion

When you have more than one leaf, you should never describe it as “leafs”, but you should be saying “leaves” instead.

This is because the rules of Old English have still stuck with us, even when they make no sense whatsoever.

The only time you should say “leaf’s” is when talking about something owned by a leaf. And when you do, be sure to use the apostrophe.

Pluralising any word that ends in f or fe is a bit tricky. But hopefully, you now know how.

Leaves are fascinating, whether we’re talking about the word or the thing. And now, I think I’m going to go and jump in a pile.