12

I found usages of both "beliefs" and "believes" and am confused while using a plural of 'belief'. So, I want to know which is the correct plural of 'belief'? Is it believes or beliefs?

  • 8
    Though a very general question but for extremely new to English, it's common. If thief's plural is thieves, belief's plural could be believes. Years back, this was my confusion as well! :) – Maulik V Nov 27 '15 at 6:53
23

Actually they are different.

  1. Believe is a verb which is simply used for accepting the truth.

    Example: He believes that all ​children are ​born with ​equal ​intelligence.

    In above example the word "believes" is used as a third-person singular simple present.

  2. Belief is a noun which is generally used for acceptance/confidence in truth, faith or trust.

    Example: I can't do that. It's against my beliefs.

    In above example, the word "beliefs" is used as plural of belief.

So, The difference is:

  • Beliefs is the plural of a noun belief
  • Believes is the use of a verb believe in third-person singular simple present
  • I would add that a belief can also be untrue, but the person who holds it must think it is true. For example, a person could believe in conspiracy theories, or believe that the moon is made of cheese. – Nick Ayres Dec 17 '16 at 22:33
-3

You have to use beliefs as a plural form of belief because believes is a third party singular form of the verb believe. The reason to use beliefs is to prevent any confusion. There are some more examples:

  1. Nouns whose verbs look similar:

    Belief - Beliefs, Proof - Proofs, Grief - Griefs

  2. Words with two f's:

Cuff - Cuffs, Sheriff - Sheriffs, Plaintiff - Plaintiffs, Whiff - Whiffs, Staff - Staffs

  1. Other words:

Brief - Briefs, Reef - Reefs, Chief - Chiefs, Fife - Fifes, Roof - Roofs, Handkerchief - Handkerchiefs

Compare them with knives, wolves, lives, selves, wives, halves, etc.

  • 13
    I don't think there's really a reason behind it like you say. The plural of "leaf" is "leaves," even though that collides with the third person singular of the verb "to leave." Similarly, the plural of "half" is"halves" even though that is also used as a form of the verb "to halve." There are plenty of other verbs that are identical to nouns, such as love, hate, ride, walk, run; but there isn't much confusion associated with these normally. – sumelic Nov 27 '15 at 8:46
  • Hmm. I may have misread your first two sentences. I read it as saying that there is some general principle in English against having the plural form of nouns and the third-person singular forms of verbs be identical. But in fact, you were probably saying that in this particular case, it would case confusion because "believes" is not a valid plural form of the noun, but it does happen to be a valid word in a different grammatical context. – sumelic Nov 27 '15 at 8:53
  • 1
    @rathony Actually handkerchief admits plural hand·ker·chiefs and hand·ker·chieves (Merriam-Webster) Roof has an archaic plural rooves and half can apparently be pluralized both halves and halfs though the reference for that is CGEL so I will have to wait till I get home to check if that's correct. – DRF Nov 27 '15 at 9:45
  • 3
    This is not a generalizable pattern. Consider "dwarf", "scarf", "sheaf", and "leaf". – Jasper Nov 27 '15 at 22:24
  • 2
    The mod team has converted this to a community wiki because, even though it contains questionable information, we believe this answer along with some of the ensuing comments may be instructive for the learner. – J.R. Dec 17 '16 at 22:21
-5

But I think " believes " is correct. yes .. belief is completely correct but for making plural the nouns with " f " at the end of them, we omit " f " and add " ves "... like : knife -> knives and : leaf -> leaves I'm now sure... please take more care about this

  • 1
    It doesn't matter what you think; belief is an exception to this rule. English is full of exceptions, unfortunately. – Glorfindel Dec 17 '16 at 15:45
  • 4
    @Glorfindel It's not really an exception. There are three broad classes of /f/-final nouns, those with /v/-only plurals (calf, knife, leaf, life), those with /f/-only plurals (belief, chief, cliff, photograph), and those with both types of plural in use (dwarf, half, scarf, wharf). Nouns sometimes move from one category to another (as with dwarf, thanks to Tolkien). Because there are so many nouns in the latter two categories, we can't say that beliefs is an exception to a general rule. See The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, p.1587. – snailcar Dec 17 '16 at 17:46

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.