Grammar Is It Lifes or Lives? Which Word Is Correct? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Is It Lifes or Lives? Which Word Is Correct?

Many modern-day philosophers (along with thousands of social media influencers) will tell you to enjoy each day because you only live once. But what would happen, grammatically speaking, if you could have more than one life? How would you spell the plural of life correctly?

In other words, is it correct to write lifes or lives?

We’ll give you the answer you’re looking for, along with a bit of context. Let’s get straight to the information you need.

The Plural of Life Is Lives

In case you just need a quick grammar tip, the plural of life is lives. This is always the case, and there aren’t any exceptions. That means the following three examples are all correct:

All this bad luck makes me think we misbehaved often in past lives.

If cats have nine lives, mine used up at least two of his today.

The doctor’s evenness, knowledge, and skill have saved many lives through the years.

At the same time, the following is never correct:

I bought more credits to gain more lifes on my favorite arcade game.

Hopefully, that clears things up. If you want to further know why the spelling is this way, let’s continue with a bit more.

Why It’s Lives and Not Lifes

In the English language, words that end in “-f” or “-fe” are usually pluralized by ending them with “-ves.” You have probably seen many similar words in the past. For example:

The plural of shelf is shelves.

The plural of knife is knives.

The plural of elf is elves.

This stems from the fact it would be difficult to pronounce (or properly hear) the plural versions of these words if they were constructed in the normal way of adding “-es” to the end. If you pronounce shelfs, knifes, elfs, or, for that matter, lifes to yourself, you’ll note how the final sound is not as clean and resolute as the words are when ending in “-ves.”

How to Remember the Plural Versions of Irregular Words

As you write, read, and speak English, you’ll always come across words that do not conform to conventions. Many of them are derived from different base languages that have (or had) their own rules for grammar and pronunciation. Other words have evolved over time, been invented out of necessity, or been changed through regional dialects.

The best way to master them is through simple practice. Whenever you come across words such as lives and knives that have their own characteristics, simply put them into sentences a few times. Before long you’ll find you can use them quickly and correctly, without having to search for outside answers.

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