Macquarie Dictionary


Flying fish or flying fishes?

Which would you use if three of these creatures flew over your boat?
We’ve discussed the differences between person and people before, but what is the rule when it comes to fish and fishes? While both are in use, and both correct, there is definitely a preference in usage.
The plural form fish is the one most commonly used, whether or not the sense is collective. For example, I caught ten fish is more common than I caught ten fishes.
When the plural form fishes is used, it is generally in order to stress plurality. In particular, zoologists use fish when they are referring to a group comprising individuals of the same species and fishes when they are referring to a group comprising two or more species. This pattern usually also applies to the plural forms of the names of particular fish (for example, salmon or salmonsbream or breams). However, there are some fish which most commonly take the -s form of the plural in all contexts. Thus ten sardines is preferable to ten sardine.
As always, the best thing to do if you’re not sure is check the Macquarie Dictionary! And if you’re after collective nouns, check out this blog.

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