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In English, some nouns have regular plural forms ending in -s or -es and fewer are irregular. Fish in the plural is still fish while child becomes children.

In Spanish, nearly all nouns are regular, adding -s or -es. The rule is even simpler than in English (-es is for words that end in consonants and accented vowels other than é, s for all others). Also, words that end in z change the z to c in the plural to retain a pleasing sound in all regional accents.

There are some words borrowed from other languages that have irregular plurals. In Mexico, the weekly markets are called tianguis (singular: tianguis plural: tianguis) after the Nahuatl word for the same weekly markets (often in the exact same places). Tianguis has been a common Spanish word since around A.D. 1520 but it still seems like a piece of traditional pre-hispanic Mexico.

Are there any native or fully absorbed Spanish nouns with irregular plurals?

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4 Answers

Plurals ain't easier in spanish. Adding to Javi's answer there are other caveats to look for, like the ones ended in z:

lápiz --> lápices
pez --> peces

here the z get's changed into c then add -es. Some others have no plurals form since the word is already plural, ex. gente has no gentes, since gente is another plural of persona appart personas.

There is also the thing about imported words into spanish that pretty much don't have a rule to follow, and they change according to the pronunciation and/or previous rules.

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The bit about z->ces is actually a general rule (not specific to plurals), "z" always changes to "c" before "e" and "i". Eg: "caza" -> "cacería". "paz" -> "pacífico". –  leonbloy Aug 21 '13 at 18:02
    
BTW, "gentes" is not very usual, but it exists. gramatikus.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/%C2%BFgente-o-gentes –  leonbloy Aug 21 '13 at 18:04
    
But nobody mentioned that my example is particular to plurals, just something to take into account when using them. And in my country if you use gentes you are labeled as overcorrected and with a lack of knowledge of the spanish (I'm just saying from personal experience, not representing all the spanish speakers). –  Braiam Aug 21 '13 at 18:09
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The noun 'bistec' (derived from, and meaning the same as, English 'beefsteak') has a plural that LOOKS regular in orthography: 'bisteces'. However, the pronunciation has an odd change. The singular ends in the /k/ sound which changes to the /s/ sound (or /th/ sound in Spain) in the plural.

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There is one entire class of nouns in Spanish which are all regular plurals of the type similar to English "sheep" and "fish" except instead of the singular also being the plural, the plural is also the singular.

There is a class of Spanish compound nouns formed by joining a verb with a plural noun. They are all masculine and always the same form is used for both singular and plural despite all ending in -s or -es.

In fact they are such a particular favourite of mine that I have been collecting them for years and I created a special place in Wiktionary to gather them into a category.

It ranges from really common ones like cumpleaños to ones I've never heard before like tumbaburros.

(There are probably other regular plurals, too, but I can't think of any just yet.)

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Nice list! You can add "mataburros" and "lustrabotas" (although it's the same as "limpiabotas") to it. –  Gonzalo Medina Nov 22 '11 at 13:54
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Indeed, these names follow the rule of the point "f" in the RAE link I provided, which is: All the words ending in S or X, whose stressed syllable isn't the last one of the word, have the same word for both singular and plural. e.g. Crisis, Tórax... –  Javi Nov 22 '11 at 14:00
    
Thanks @GonzaloMedina I will. Also it's a wiki so anybody can add to it at any time, you don't even have to log in. –  hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 14:02
    
@Javi: Ah I had never realized that was a reason behind words of this kind. Very interesting! –  hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 14:03
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Also, not all of them are masculine. For example "buscavidas" and "rompecorazones" are both f. and m. as –  belisarius Nov 23 '11 at 4:10
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You can find here the complete reference guide for plurals in Spanish by RAE. In that document you can read that there are some differences from the general rules, which aren't as simple as you described but are quite closed.

For example some words coming from other languages can have the same word for singular as for plural:

(from Latin) El currículum vitae  --> Los currículum vitae
(from French) El crómlech --> Los crómlech

Also, the stressed syllable doesn't change in plurals, but there are 3 exceptions that have different stressed syllable in singular than in plural:

  1. Régimen (-gi-men) -->Regímenes (Re--me-nes)
  2. Espécimen (Es--ci-men) -->Especímenes(Es-pe--me-nes)
  3. Carácter (Ca-rác-ter) -->Caracteres(Ca-rac-te-res)
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Excellent answer. I almost voted this question to be closed as a list question. This answer, I believe, summarizes things well. +1 –  Richard Nov 22 '11 at 13:34
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Specially in the north of Mexico they add 's' even if it isn't necessary. For example the use of "gentes" instead of just gente. –  razpeitia Nov 23 '11 at 4:16
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