For at least a month — it feels much longer — I’ve been seeing the same promo for a mystery program that raises the grammar question of Lifes or Lives?
If you were going to turn the word life plural, how would you write it: lifes or lives?
It’s a simple enough question, but thanks to the complexities of English, the answer gets tricky.
Speakers and writers of English must dodge plenty of twists and turns as they navigate the language. A recent promo for a crime documentary illustrates the fact that some people occasionally take a wrong turn.
The spot contains a soundbite from an interview that appears in the show. A man who the spot doesn’t identify makes this statement:
We were doing something we were nervous about. Our lifes would be ruined.
He actually stresses the word lifes, so the error stands out even more.
It is an error because the word life has an irregular plural form: the plural form of life is lives.
- The plural of leaf is leaves.
- The plural of knife is knives.
This rule also applies to the words half, loaf, shelf, thief, wife and wolf.
But some words ending in either F or FE don’t take the irregular form.
- The plural of sheriff is sheriffs.
- The plural of giraffe is giraffes.
And one more twist: You can make these words plural by adding an S or by replacing the F with VES:
Sometimes, a quality spellcheck program is your best bet to help avoid blunders!