Leafs or leaves – which form is correct?
A leaf is a flat, usually green part of a plant, growing from a stem or branch or from the root. In the autumn, the leaves of many trees turn various bright colours and then fall to the ground. In the spring, trees grow new leaves again. How fascinating is that! Oh, wait a minute, it is leaves and not leafs? Read this article and you will see that they are even more intriguing when it comes to forming plural!
Leafs or leaves – which one is correct?
The correct form is leaves, as the only correct way of pluralising leaf is leaves. If you say or write leafs, you are making a grammatical error. But why is it not as straightforward as with most nouns that simply just take -s ending to make plural form?
Leafs or leaves – what is the rule?
As mentioned above, to pluralise most words you simply add an -s. For example, you have one flower and two flowers. However, with nouns ending in f or fe it is much more complicated. Most will replace the f or fe with ves, as in:
loaf – loaves,
knife – knives.
Some words ending in f just add -s. For example:
safe becomes safes,
chief becomes chiefs.
With some nouns, both versions are accepted, as in:
scarf – scarfs or scarves,
dwarf – dwarfs or dwarves.
The plural of leaf is always leaves. Unfortunately, there is no clever way of knowing which nouns ending in f or fe follow which rules – you have to memorize this. For example, you have to remember that leaf becomes leaves, but belief becomes beliefs, even though leaf and belief sound the same ( /liːf/ and /bɪˈliːf/).
Why it is leaves and not leafs?
English is a very old language that has evolved over time. During Old and Middle English, words were spelt phonetically. When you say leafs, you will find that it naturally sounds more like leaves /liːvz/. However, when you say beliefs /bɪˈliːfs/, it doesn’t sound like “believes”.
Leafs or leaves? Now it is all clear! Examples from the literature
I refused to call it tea when it did not contain any actual tea leaves.
Adib Khorram, Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Dark palm leaves were splayed like drooping combs against the monsoon sky.
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
So many sounds of bugs and the wind blowing leaves.
Mae Respicio, The House That Lou Built