Any English language learner will know that pluralization of nouns — especially animals — can be confusing in English. For example, we have one sheep and two sheep, one mouse and two mice, or one goose and two geese. Then we have one shrimp and two…shrimp or shrimps?
It is correct to say “shrimp” or “shrimps,” depending on the context. We call a group of shrimp “shrimp,” but if you have an easily countable number of shrimp, you can say “shrimps” or “shrimp.” The word “shrimp” typically refers to the small crustaceans that live on the ocean floor, but it can also be a disparaging term for a tiny person.
We’ll go over the correct way to use “shrimp” in a sentence and some of the best times and places to use the word “shrimp” compared to “shrimps.” We’ll also discuss when to avoid the word “shrimps” and some good alternatives you can use.
What Is the Correct Plural of Shrimp?
“Shrimp” might be one of the more confusing nouns in English. We can pluralize it as “shrimp” or “shrimps” (source). You can have one shrimp and two shrimp. However, you can also have two shrimps. Still, if you have an uncountable number of shrimp, like a large group, you should call them “shrimp.”
What Do We Call a Group of Shrimp?
When we talk about one group of shrimp, we will say “shrimp,” not “shrimps.”
- I saw a group of shrimp when I was snorkeling.
In English, we have specific words for different animal groups. For example, we call a group of wolves a pack, a group of elephants a herd, and a group of dolphins a pod.
Well, a group of shrimp has a couple of names. You can call them a colony of shrimp or a troupe of shrimp. Either way, if you are referring to only one group, you will always say “shrimp” instead of “shrimps.”
What about if you are talking about more than one group of shrimp or more than one species or type of shrimp? If you are referring to several different groups or types of shrimp, you can say “shrimp” or “shrimps.” For example:
- There are thousands of species of shrimp in the sea.
- There are thousands of species of shrimps in the sea.
Both are correct!
Plural nouns in English can be particularly tricky because so many of them are irregular. For further reading about irregular plural nouns, check out our article “Is It Correct to Say ‘Deers’?”
What About “Shrimp’s”?
There is another time when you might say “shrimps,” and that is when you are using the possessive form of shrimp. The possessive form indicates ownership of an object. In English, we typically indicate possession by adding an apostrophe-s at the end of a word.
- The shrimp’s eyes were large.
Whether you are saying “shrimps” or “shrimp’s,” you would pronounce it the same way. The important difference is when writing them out.
Still, what about if there are more than one shrimp and you want to indicate possession? When making a plural word possessive, things get even weirder. The correct way to spell a plural possessive word is first to pluralize the word, then add an apostrophe.
- The shrimps’ mating season is in the spring.
It can get a bit confusing because we would pronounce them all the same way, and the only thing that changes is the apostrophe. Here’s a quick chart to help keep it clear.
|shrimps||More than one shrimp|
|shrimp’s||Something belonging to the shrimp|
|shrimps’||Things belonging to multiple shrimp|
What Does “Shrimps” Mean?
A shrimp is a type of sea creature we know as crustaceans, so “shrimps” would refer to an easily countable amount of shrimp (source). They have long slim bodies with long tails, pincers, and several small thin legs. In the UK, they also call shrimp “prawns.”
You can also use the term “shrimps” to refer to the act of fishing for shrimp.
- He shrimps in the Indian Ocean.
Finally, the word “shrimp” or “shrimps” is also one that you can use to describe a very small person like a child. However, we would typically consider it a mild derogatory or insulting term.
- I don’t want to play soccer with a bunch of shrimps.
How Do You Use “Shrimps?”
“Shrimps” is simply a plural form of “shrimp,” so you can use the word “shrimps” to refer to more than one shrimp.
- He ate at least 50 shrimps last night.
You can also use it as an action word in the third person to describe the act of fishing for shrimp.
- She shrimps every weekend.
You can also refer to a person as a shrimp or several people as shrimps. This is only true if you are trying to say that they are very short or small.
- Kindergarteners are shrimps.
When Can You Use “Shrimps”?
The correct time and place to use “shrimp” vs. “shrimps” will depend on which country you are in. In the US, there are a few more norms or expectations than in the UK.
If you are in the US, typically, you can use the word “shrimps” in three different contexts. The first context is if you are referring to types or species of shrimp.
- There are many types of shrimps in the Gulf of Mexico.
The second context is if you are referring to the verb “to shrimp.” We use this verb to mean a person who is fishing for shrimp. We would only use the spelling “shrimps” for the third person, though. In this context, the word “shrimps” is not a plural but rather the third-person present tense form of the verb.
- He shrimps for a living.
Finally, if you are trying to insult multiple people or a group of people by saying they are tiny, you can use the plural form of “shrimp” to refer to them.
- You are all a bunch of shrimps.
In the UK, the rules are a little bit different. There, the word “shrimps” is a standard pluralization of the noun “shrimp.” In other words, any time you have more than one shrimp, you would use the word “shrimps.”
- I love to eat fried shrimps for dinner.
However, please note that the noun “shrimp” is not very common in the UK. Instead, it is much more common to use the noun “prawns” to refer to shrimp.
Using “Shrimps” in a Full Sentence
We’ve talked through a few different ways that you can use the word “shrimps” in a sentence. Let’s cover a few examples now demonstrating appropriate ways to use the word “shrimps” in a few different contexts.
- She shrimps in the Pacific Ocean for a living.
- Her grandfather shrimps every weekend.
- We found five types of shrimps when we went snorkeling.
- There are more types of shrimps than one can count.
- I ate so many shrimps last weekend.
- Fried shrimps are my favorite snack.
When Not to Use “Shrimps”
There are essential times when you would not want to use the plural noun “shrimps.” First and most obviously, if you are only referring to one shrimp, it is not appropriate to use the plural form.
If you are in the US, it is more standard to use the form “shrimp” when referring to more than one shrimp as well. For example:
- I had shrimp for dinner.
- We saw so many shrimp today.
For this reason, especially if you are in the US, it is better to avoid the use of the plural “shrimps” and instead just stick with “shrimp.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Shrimps”?
If you are trying to avoid using the word “shrimps,” there are some options for you, although they will depend on the context. First and foremost, if you are in the UK, there is always the option of simply calling them “prawns” instead.
Prawns are technically a different species than shrimp. They are slightly larger, and we would typically find them in freshwater, not saltwater. Despite this, they more often refer to shrimp as prawns in the UK unless they are very small. You can rest assured that people will accept “prawns” in any context in the UK.
Another situation where you might be looking for a different word is if you are referring to a small person. Since we can view the word “shrimp” as an insulting term, you might want to choose a different word to describe someone. A few options might be:
On the other hand, you might desire more creative ways to describe a small person that doesn’t specifically refer to shrimp. In that case, some possible alternatives could include:
- Short stuff
But bear in mind, most would still consider these words insulting or, at least, a bit rude. So carefully consider whether you should use these words as they may upset people.
Regular and Irregular Nouns
To understand a bit more about how we pluralize the word “shrimp,” it’s helpful to understand the many different ways that nouns can become plural in English. We most often consider “shrimp” a base noun, which means that it does not change when it is plural.
Most nouns in English follow the standard convention of adding an -s or -es at the noun’s end to make it plural. For example:
While many nouns follow this convention, several essential exceptions can be helpful to understand.
Base or Zero Nouns
Base or zero nouns are nouns that do not change, whether plural or singular. There are many common examples of base nouns in English (source). For example:
The word “shrimp” also follows this convention in the US, so shrimp is a base noun. However, base nouns can be confusing to understand, so if you would like to understand more about base nouns, check out “Is It Correct to Say ‘Sheeps’?”
Mid-Word Vowel Change
Some nouns become plural not by changing the word’s ending but by changing the middle of the word. One of the most popular examples is the word “mouse,” which becomes “mice” when plural. These words are all irregular and do not follow a strict pattern for how they change to become pluralized. For example:
The seven words above are the only examples where this happens in English. There is no rule for how these words change. As an English language learner, memorizing them may be most helpful.
Another type of plural ending in English is when the word ends in en. This is another irregular change that is not very common. There are only four words in English that still follow this plural convention.
Note that “brother” and “sister” also have standard pluralization, as “brothers” and “sisters.” Brethren and sistren are archaic pluralizations that you might encounter in reading or religious contexts.
Words With Latin Roots
Some words with Latin roots will have peculiar plural conventions. You can tell when words have Latin roots because of the spelling or pronunciation of the prefix or suffix. A prefix is a standard beginning sound, while a suffix is a standard ending sound.
While they may seem like random syllables, each one actually has its own meaning. Some common Latin prefixes include:
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
There are also some common Latin suffixes:
Understanding the nuances of different plural forms of nouns can be difficult when learning English. There are many irregular nouns in English, like “shrimp,” but learning them is essential for mastering English and becoming a fluent speaker.
With careful practice, these nuances will become second nature, and you will be speaking fluently in no time!