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What’s the Plural of Thief?

The plural of thief is thieves. Thief ends in a sibilant (f), which typically take on -ves as a plural noun form.



Is “thief” singular or plural?

Thief is singular. Thieves is the plural of thief. To understand why does the singular noun, thief, modifies to thieves as a plural noun, keep reading.

What’s the definition of thief?

The online dictionary defines a thief as “a person who steals, especially secretly or without open force; one guilty of theft or larceny.”

What’s the plural of thieves?

The plural of thief (thieves), is irregular. Though it ends in the regular –es as a plural noun, it does so by replacing its ending in the singular case. Nouns normally add on the -es/-s to showcase plurality: books, phones, dogs and cats all add an s to demonstrate more than one of something. It’s an easy and straightforward way to form a plural noun: just add an s to the singular noun.

This does not work with words such as thief, wolf, shelf, knife, (the list goes on.) It could have something to do with the fact that each of these words came to Modern English from the Germanic languages, or PIE (Proto-Indo-European languages.) The same rule that applies with these other Germanic derived nouns, (wolf, knife, wife, life, etc.) each ends in –ves as a plural noun, replacing the the sibilant -f/-fe in the singular case. See the chart below.

Nouns that end in -f/-fe and –ves

Nouns that end in f/fe use ves as a plural.
Nouns that end in f/fe use ves as a plural. Chart by grammarflex on Canva.

‍‍Origin of the word thief/thieves

From etymonline on thief:

Old English þeof “thief, robber,” from Proto-Germanic *theuba- (source also of Old Frisian thiaf, Old Saxon thiof, Middle Dutch and Dutch dief, Old High German diob, German dieb, Old Norse þiofr, Gothic þiufs).

Examples of “thief” used in context

The following sentences show the correct use of the word thief in context:

1. A petty thief is someone who has a record of small thefts

2. There is no shortage of ways to be a thief, and many of them have a specific name.

3. A pickpocket is a thief who steals things, such as wallets or watches, directly from people’s pockets or from their body.

4. A burglar is a thief who breaks into or otherwise unlawfully enters a home or business to steal valuables.

5. Set a thief to catch a thief. (Sunday Times, 2014)

Examples of the word “thieves” in sentences

The following sentences show the correct use of the word thieves in context:

1. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. (Aesop)

2. Before they cleaned themselves up, they were thieves, thugs, and junkies.

3. Some thieves steal small things.

4. Some thieves steal valuable items.

5. Art thieves, jewel thieves, and car thieves are common characters in pop culture.

Synonyms for the word thief/thieves

  • burglar
  • pickpocket
  • highwayman
  • swindler
  • criminal
  • crook
  • mugger
  • robber
  • bandit
  • shoplifter
  • embezzler
  • pilferer
  • larcener



Phrases that include the word thief/thieves

  • A thief in the night
  • Thick as thieves
  • To be a thief of your own wallet

‍‍

What’re personal pronouns?

What’s the difference between they’re, their, and there?

Whose vs who’s?

Sources

  1. Definition of thief.
  2. Synonyms of thief.
  3. Example sentences for thief.
  4. Origin of the word thief.


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