If interrogative words are used as nouns, how are they pluralized?

Example: This will answer your hows and whys.

What is the correct form?

  • whys (the same as most English words?)
  • why's (following the rationale of pluralized acronyms?)
  • why (they cannot be pluralized?)
  • I wouldn't say that these interrogative words are true nouns here, they are in some sense by metonymy shortened forms of "'why' questions", that is, the interrogative word is being quoted, used as a modifier, then the thing modified is dropped.
    – Mitch
    Jan 11, 2012 at 16:08
  • 3
    @Mitch: It's a moot point whether this usage of how is best described as metonymy, ellipsis, or something else. But whichever way you look at it, how and why are functioning as nouns in OP's example, and should thus be pluralised in the normal way, as Irene says. Jan 11, 2012 at 16:53
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: As in W S Gilbert: 'Never mind the why and wherefore'. Jan 11, 2012 at 17:20
  • @Barrie: Because the G&S context is famous, that gets several thousand hits on Google Books. But the pluralised version also gets over 100 hits, none (or at least, very few) of which seem to be related to the HMS Pinafore reference. Jan 11, 2012 at 17:25
  • @Mitch: Wonder if a metonymy ceases to be a noun? What would a noun become when 'metonymized', then?
    – Kris
    Jan 12, 2012 at 12:53

1 Answer 1


They are pluralised adding the -s at the end of the word: why/whys, how/hows, etc.

  • 1
    +1 Right, but why? :)
    – Kris
    Jan 12, 2012 at 12:54
  • @Kris: If you look up the word "why" in Oxford Dictionaries Online, you will see that it is listed as a noun, among other uses. As a noun, it can be pluralised just like any other English noun (as long as it doesn't belong to any particular category that forbids normal pluralisation, that is).
    – Irene
    Jan 12, 2012 at 13:29
  • The plural of sty is sties; therefore the regular plural of why should be whies.
    – tchrist
    Feb 4, 2013 at 0:22
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    I understand @tchrist to be questioning the part of this answer which says question words have regular plurals. In fact if they had regular plurals then the plurals would be who/whos, what/whats, where/wheres, when/whens, why/whies, and how/hows. Irene wouldn't it make more sense to drop the word "regularly"?
    – MetaEd
    Dec 3, 2018 at 23:35
  • @tchrist I think you're mistaking the word stye, which make sense why the plural would be what it is. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stye Dec 8, 2018 at 21:42

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