Fish vs. Fishes

  malza  —  Grammar Tips
Fish vs. Fishes

"Fish" and "fishes" represent one of those pairs of almost identical words, that can create a lot of confusion not only due to their similitude, but also due to the numerous meanings they have in different contexts. At a first sight, they might simply look like two versions of the plural for "fish", having you wondering which one is correct.

But taking a closer look, there's a little more to discuss about "fish" and "fishes" and what they can represent in a phrase, so let's clear these things up for you!

Fish vs. Fishes

Yes, both words are usual in the English vocabulary and none is completely considered a misspelling. Even so, this doesn't mean that if you use "fish" instead of "fishes" in an inappropriate context, it won't be considered misspelled. That makes it important that you are able to make a perfect distinction between "fish" and "fishes" and what message each stands for.

When do we use "fish"?

"Fish" has multiple meanings. First, it is the singular noun referring to an animal with a tail and fins that help him swim and live only inside the water. This noun, anyway, is irregular, which means it doesn't simply add an "-s" in the end, to form plural. Its plural form, actually, is the same with its singular. As a result, "fish" is also the plural noun, referring to more than one "fish". Nonetheless, "fish" can also be used as a noun referring to food, dish.

And then, "fish" is also a verb, referring to the action of catching fish. Here are some examples to illustrate the contexts where you can use "fish" correctly in English:

Example 1: He caught one fish, but he wants to catch more. - the singular noun referring to one animal that lives in water and swims using its tails and fins.

Example 2: I liked two fish in the pet shop, but I couldn't choose one. - the plural noun referring to more than one fish.

Example 3: For dinner, we are having fish and rice. - a noun referring to "fish" as dinner.

Example 4: I want to learn how to fish, it might be useful for me in the future. - as a verb, "fish" defines the action of trying to catch a fish.

When do we use "fishes"?

Despite the confusion that has created around this word, "fishes" cannot be used as the plural for "fish", at least not when you refer to more than one fish. But it can be used when referring to more types or species of fish.

Plus, there is one more context where "fishes" is considered correct, and that happens when it is used in present simple, as a verb, at third person.

Example 1: Different fishes have different types of colors, swimming speeds and flavors. - referring to more species of fish.

Example 2: He fishes every day because that's his job: he is a fisherman! - "fishes" is used as a verb, at present simple, for the third person.


Just as you could see in the previous examples and explanations, there are a lot of meanings that "fish" and "fishes" can take according to the context where they are used. All these meanings are different and, therefore, you should not confuse one for another if you want your message to be properly understood.