What’s the Plural of “Fish”?—Quick Summary
Fish and fishes are both acceptable plural forms of fish. However, fishes tends to be used in specialized and scientific contexts.
What Is the Plural of “Fish”?
Picture yourself snorkeling by a lively and vivid coral reef. Fish are in abundance, and you spot one clownfish. You can say:
Look at that fish!
A few seconds later, another clownfish joins. In that case, you’d say:
Look at those fish!
Then, a blue tang swims by and joins them. In that situation, you can say either of the following:
Look at those fish!
Look at those fishes!
Fish and fishes are both acceptable plural forms of fish. Fish is the more commonly used plural, and can be used regardless of how many species are present. Fishes tends to be used as a plural when there are more than one species, especially in scientific settings.
“Fish” vs. “Fishes”
There are a few more important notes to make about the word fish.
When you’re referring to fish as food, it’s an uncountable noun. Whether you’re eating one, two, or three different fillets of fish, you’d still say fish, not fishes.
I ate a lot of fish while on the cruise.
I ate a lot of
fishes while on the cruise.
Using “Fish” and “Fishes” as Verbs
Another thing to note about the word fish is that it can also function as a verb. Fish is the singular present-tense form and means “to attempt to catch fish with a fishing line, net, etc.”
I go to the bridge every weekend to fish.
Johnson learned to fish by the age of three.
Stephen wants to fish, but doesn’t have a fishing pole.
Fishes is the third-person singular present tense form.
He fishes at least once a week because he lives by a lake.
My sister owns a boat and fishes for tuna in the Atlantic Ocean.
My friend’s father fishes using a robotic, life-like bait.
And while we’re on the subject, we should mention that the present participle is fishing, while the past tense and past participle are both fished.
We will be fishing all afternoon.
Yesterday, Emilio fished for six hours and ended up catching a large bass.
We have fished in all the lakes in this region.
As a verb, fish also means to “search around for something.”
She fished around for her keys in her purse, but couldn’t find them.
Lastly, the phrasal verb fish for means “to try to get something or find something out but pretending not to.”
I had to fish for more information, but he was being secretive.
I could tell he was fishing for compliments.
Using “Fish” and “Fishes” Correctly
With regard to the plural of fish, remember that:
- Fish and fishes are both acceptable plural forms, but fish is more widely used.
- Fish can be the plural form whether there’s multiple fish of the same species or multiple fish of different species.
- Fishes is usually used in scientific contexts to refer to multiple species.
- When referring to fish as food, it's an uncountable noun, and therefore shouldn’t be used as a plural.
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