Did The Fisherman Catch 2 Fish or Fishes?

Is it 2 fishes or 2 fish?  Plurality rules are one of the most confusing aspects of English. Some words can stay the same when plural, whereas others must adapt into a different form. This confusing conflict is true for the word “fish,” which can sometimes have strange plurality rules. So, is “fish” or “fishes” the correct plural term? 

To answer shortly, the common plural form of “fish” is “fish.” You can use this form when speaking, writing informally, or even writing in a business context. 

However, when used in a scientific context, it is correct to use “fishes” as the plural form when talking about more than one fish species. 

a picture of two fish facing each other. The speech bubble above the first fish says "are we 2 fishes or fish?" The second fish replied: "I have no idea. I am just a fish"

When Should You Say “Fish” And “Fishes?” 

When discussing multiple species of fish (even when not talking in a scientific context), it would be most correct to say “fishes.” For instance:

  • I was amazed at the trout, perch, and minnows in the pond. I didn’t expect to see so many fishes. 
  • I recently read a study where a scientific team conducted research in a tank of 1000 trout. That’s a lot of fish! 

Are There Other Times When You Should Use “Fishes?” 

Fishes can sometimes be used to put emphasis or character in a sentence. For instance, a quote from the hit movie The Godfather goes “It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” This quote emphasizes the word “fishes” to show that the character is dead. 

Additionally, when referring to the hobby of fishing, you can use it as a verb “to fish.” when used in the present tense, this verb takes the form “fishes.” 

Lastly, certain fish species and groups have “fishes” in their plural name. Some examples include “bony fishes” and “flying fishes.” 

More Examples Of Using “Fish” And “Fishes” 

  • You’ll sleep with the fishes if you keep talking to me like that. 
  • Supposedly, there are fish that can eat animals two times their body size. 
  • My dad loves being outdoors. He fishes quite often. 
  • After the recent storm, at least 1,500 fish have been removed from their habitat. 
  • A recent study shows that flying fishes can hold their breath out of the water for at least 5 minutes! 
  • My doctor advised me to eat plenty of fish to get all the nutrients I needed. 

Examples From Inspiring English Sources

During a recent fish survey, Matt O’Hara said, so many fish jumped out of the river at the first jolt of electroshocking that a camera filming from the nearby shore was unable to see the boat. – The New Yorker

But which party leader will end up sleeping with the fishes? – The Guardian

Related: Is “Public” Plural or Singular?

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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