24

If I were to try to achieve something you could say I "had a go".

If I tried it multiple times, how would I write that down?

I had many goes

or

I had many go's

or

I had many gos

closed as off-topic by Mari-Lou A, curiousdannii, MetaEd Nov 8 '18 at 16:34

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

37

The dictionaries I've checked seem to be unanimous that the plural of the noun "go" is "goes". I didn't see one list its plural as "gos". However, I didn't check all dictionaries.

American Heritage Dictionary:
n. pl. goes

Collins Dictionary:
n, pl goes

Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
plural goes

Cambridge Dictionary:
plural goes

Random House Unabridged Dictionary (dictionary.com):
plural goes

Google NGram Viewer does not show any results for "two gos at" or "two gos at", but does when written as "goes".

A Google search shows the following results:

"two gos at" = 453 results.
"two goes at" = 19,500 results.
"three gos at" = 252 results.
"three goes at" = 20,200 results.

Note that both Google search and Ngram Viewer may show false positives, as Google search, as far as I know, doesn't take punctuation into account when giving search results, ie., full stops, commas. But I think it's safe to assume the consensus is that the plural of go (attempt or try) is "goes".

I think this is a good question, as somewhere in my head I have an instinct to write it "gos". However the answer is gotten easily by checking some dictionaries.

Also, if you wrote "I had three gos at it before giving up", I have a feeling the typical reader probably wouldn't even be surprised by it or notice it particularly as wrong. This is just my opinion. I have this feeling because the "-os"/"-oes" plural ending rules are wildly inconsistent. Potatoes, tomatoes and heroes are correct. But "photos" and "burritos" are correct. However most dictionaries seem to list either "-os" or "-oes" ending as acceptable in "ghetto" and "mosquito".

Both "mosquito" and "burrito" most likely come from Spanish, yet most dictionaries say only "mosquito" can have plural ending either "-os" or "oes", whereas they're consistent in listing "-os" for burrito plural. Same goes for "canto", "manifesto" and "grotto". These words most likely come from Italian, yet the plural of "canto" is "cantos", whereas the dictionaries say the plural of "grotto" or "manifesto" can end in either "-os" or "-oes".

Addendum
As some people have claimed that the rules for -os or -oes plural endings are quite consistent (and I happen to disagree), I've included more examples to show just how unpredictable this can get. The claim generally is basically that borrowed words or imported words from other languages have -os as their endings and most everything else has -oes. The more specific claim is this rule applies for words from Romance languages specifically.

  • embargo (Spanish): Dictionaries show only -oes plural. NGrams show -oes much more common.
  • tornado (Spanish): Dictionaries show either -os or -oes plural. NGrams shows -oes much more common.
  • desperado (Spanish): Dictionaries show either -os or -oes plural. NGrams shows -oes more common.
  • cargo (Spanish) plural possibly as the pants: Dictionaries show either -os or -oes. NGrams shows -oes more common.
  • mango (Portuguese): Dictionaries show both -os or -oes. NGrams shows -oes much more common.
  • domino (uncertain exactly which language, but a Romance one, or maybe directly from Latin): Dictionaries give either -os or -oes. NGrams shows -oes much more common.
  • volcano (Italian): Dictionaries give either -os or -oes. NGrams shows -oes much more common.
  • motto (Italian): Dictionaries give either -os or -oes. NGrams shows -oes to be more common.

Words taken directly from Latin many times have -oes plural ending, but not always:

veto has plural vetoes
torpedo has plural torpedoes

However memento overwhelmingly has plural mementos. And embryo is always embryos.

Echo, directly from Greek, has plural "echoes".

  • hello (native English): Nearly always "hellos".
  • no (native English): Much more common as "nos", ie., "yeses and nos".
  • do (native English): Dictionaries give plural as either "dos" or "do's". The results for searches of these terms would be confounding to say the least.

  • weirdo (native English): some dictionaries show both -os or -oes. NGrams shows -os is much more popular

Unknown origin:

  • hobo: Dictionaries give either -os or -oes. NGrams show roughly same frequency.
  • gizmo: = Dictionaries only give -os, "gizmoes" doesn't show anything in NGrams.
  • gazebo: Dictionaries show both -os or -oes. NGrams shows -os more common.

So I don't know about anyone else, but I personally need help, in many ways.

  • You can find 'goes' in the WordWeb Dictionary" wordwebonline.com/search.pl?w=go – Flonne Nov 7 '18 at 15:16
  • 5
    "I have a feeling the typical reader probably wouldn't even be surprised by it or notice it particularly as wrong." This typical British reader would. "Gos" looks like it's a singular noun pronounced "Goss" to rhyme with "boss" or "moss" (with a British English "o" sound, not the American English vowel which is closer to a long "a" than a BrE "o"). – alephzero Nov 7 '18 at 16:32
  • 1
    @alephzero Yes, you're right, I hope the way I phrased it didn't come off as being a certain claim, it was just my feeling of the "typical" person. I probably exclude people who use this site as typical readers, like you. Sorry if this wasn't clear. We also have the case the of "yeses and nos/noes", where many dictionaries recognise the plural of "no" as either "nos" or "noes". The "nos" spelling I imagine would look like what you have pointed out, ie., "noss". – Zebrafish Nov 7 '18 at 17:50
  • 2
    If I read "I had three gos on Bob's bike" I would never guess that it referred to "a go". Apart from the borrowed words which have brought their native plurals along with them, nouns that end in "o" take "es" to form the plural, so it's "goes" for sure. – CCTO Nov 7 '18 at 19:18
  • 1
    The "-os"/"-oes" endings aren't all that inconsistent. The default is to include the e, but words imported from Romance languages use "-os". The increasing use of "mosquitoes" is a study in the normalization of an imported Spanish word. – chrylis Nov 7 '18 at 19:35
10

There is an alternate construction which expresses plurality using a singular inflection, which may be of interest. Tho slightly odd, it has a history of use, and is readily understood:

"many a go"

As in:

We've had many a go at this.

I'll have many a go.

  • 1
    Technically, verbs are conjugated, nouns are inflected. – Acccumulation Nov 7 '18 at 19:38
  • 1
    What do you mean by verbs are conjugated, nouns are inflected? Isn't inflection is the headword which means the process by which words are changed in form to create new, specific meanings? Inflection has two main categories: conjugation and declension. Conjugation refers to the inflection of verbs, while declension refers to the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. – Flonne Nov 8 '18 at 2:45
  • @FlonneLightberry word. – workoverflow Nov 8 '18 at 9:50
  • Hah, declension in English :) Not that it doesn't exist but it's very limited. – ElmoVanKielmo Nov 8 '18 at 14:08
  • Thank you Acccumulation and Flonne, I appreciate learning that distinction. – VizJS Nov 28 '18 at 2:17
-2

In most usage I have heard, I would consider the phrase "a go at it" to be non-count. In other words, it does not specify the number of tries and thus neither singular nor plural.

Though, VizJS answer does seem to be a logical plural.

  • 1
    A "go" is singular and specifies a single attempt. I can't see how it's non-count if I can have "several goes" - which I should note is a common if informal expression in my experience (Aust. Eng.). – Chappo Nov 8 '18 at 1:35
  • @Chappo -- I have Western US background. So likely a dialect difference. In my experience, trying to do something doesn't necessarily mean a single attempt. – ravery Nov 8 '18 at 1:55
  • 1
    It may not be down to regional variation. Dictionary definitions make it pretty clear that a "go" means "an attempt", i.e. singular. They're semantically equivalent, and "attempt" is countable. A single "attempt" (or "go" or "try") can include exploring multiple solutions, and could even span a long period, but would usually exclude doing the same thing again - that would be having a "second go" at it. – Chappo Nov 8 '18 at 2:12
-3

Not what the OP intended...

The noun go (a Japanese board game) has the English plural gos. Perhaps one could even say "I had a go" with this meaning.

  • 3
    No, you can't say 'gos' for Go which means a Japanese board game. It's a mass noun (uncountable): en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/go (example: ‘The game that does seem to me to be superior to chess, in that it has both depth and simplicity, is the Japanese game of Go.’) – Flonne Nov 7 '18 at 15:22
  • 8
    So the plural of chess is chesses, right? "I had a chess"? I don't think so... – TonyK Nov 7 '18 at 16:39
  • 7
    I had a chess set. I played many chess games. I had a go set. I played many go games. I had many goes at go. I had many goes at chess. – DoverAudio Nov 7 '18 at 17:52
  • 3
    I've never had a chess at go though, in my entire checkered past. – Monty Harder Nov 7 '18 at 20:58
  • 3
    @FlonneLightberry As with many, if not most, other mass nouns, go can indeed be pluralised. Such a pluralisation entails type-shifting, and the plural form refers to different types of go. It’s the same principle as when talking about different peoples, monies, or waters, except those are common, whereas many other count nouns are uncommonly enough pluralised that they sound strange when you first encounter them. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 8 '18 at 0:09

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