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Fish vs. Fishes

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

There are many creatures that live in the water. Some taste good, and some do not. Some have scales, and others have hard shells. Fish are one group of these animals. Some English speakers aren’t sure how to refer to more than one fish. Should you use fish, or fishes? Read on to find out.

In this post, I will explore fish vs. fishes. I will use each word in a sentence to illustrate its proper use. Plus, I will show you a helpful trick to use when deciding which of these words to use in your own writing.


The word fish originated from Old English fisc (as a noun denoting any animal living exclusively in water), fiscian (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch vis, vissen and German Fisch, fischen.

Fish as noun:

Fish is a limbless cold-blooded vertebrate animal with gills and fins living wholly in water.

The huge lakes are now devoid of fish.

Fish as verb:

Fish is also used as a verb which means to catch or try to catch fish, typically by using a net or hook and line.

He was fishing for pike.

Fish also means to search by groping or feeling for something concealed.

He fished for his registration certificate and held it up to the policeman's torch.

Fishes as noun:

Fishes is an alternate plural of fish. Although fishes is the older of the two plural forms, its use today is rare and idiomatic, as in the following phrases:

Jesus fed the crowd with five loaves and two fishes.

“Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes,” Sal said.

It is also sometimes used when referring to more than one species of fish.

Perch and bass are two fishes hunted for sport in the American Midwest.

Fishes as verb:

Fishes is used as a verb it as the third-person present tense of to fish.

Jermaine fishes for salmon, and shares it with his family.


These fish emit distress signals that are picked up on by the mulloway.  [Fishing World]

The fish are then sold as salted dry or canned. [Food Science, Sari Edelstein]

No fish were registered on Upriver Lakes, where the season has now closed after the 90 percent harvest cap was reached on Sunday. [Fon du Lac Reporter]

Those most in jeopardy were the smaller fishes with specialised eating and sheltering habits. [U.S. News & World Report]

Chewing aided chemical digestion and improvedthe fishes‘ ability to extract nutrients from their prey. [Life: The Science of Biology, David Sadava, Gordon H. Orians, H. Craig Heller]

He fishes public lakes, many of them smaller city watersheds that most anglers drive past on the way to more popular water. [Norwich Bulletin]

Fish or fishes:

Fish and fishes can both be used as either a verb or a plural noun. To fish is to capture aquatic animals, and as plural nouns, fish and fishes refer to more than one such animal. You can use the phrase “fish is good” to remind yourself that fish should be used in most situations. If you still have trouble remembering when to use fishes or fish, you can check this article for extra help.


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"Fish vs. Fishes." STANDS4 LLC, 2018. Web. 21 Jan. 2018. <>.

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