'Fish' or 'Fishes'? Which One Is Correct? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 6 March 2023)

Fish or Fishes: Which One Is Correct?

The usual plural form of fish is fish:

There are many fish in the pond.

I caught several fish yesterday.

We have five fish in our fish tank.

The older form fishes can be used to refer to two or more species of fish. This form is quite rare and is mostly used in scientific contexts:

The seahorse is among the most unusual of all fishes.

Hundreds of fishes are on the list of endangered species.

Professor Lee, who is a fish expert, studies all the fishes of the sea.

For example, if a tank contains five goldfish and five guppies, then there are ten fish in the tank, but two fishes (i.e. two species of fish) in the tank.

Finally, fish is uncountable when it refers to the meat of a fish eaten as food:

Many Japanese people like eating raw fish.

✅ The man bought a few ounces of fish for dinner.

✅ We ate a lot of fried fish, roast chicken, garlic prawns, etc.

Examples from the Media

At the root of the problem is that too many fishermen face incentives to take too many fish out of the water to secure immediate benefits. The Washington Post (2012)

"When people think of deep sea fishes, the viperfish is one of the first things that comes into their mind," says Yi-Kai Tea, a fish expert from the Australian Museum in Sydney. The Guardian (2022)

Adults who reported eating fish several times a week when they were children also reported lower success in school, suggesting "that mercury exposure from fish consumption contributes to poor success in school." —Toronto Star (2018)

Recommended Further Reading

'Food' or 'Foods'?

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. Fishermen catch fish. Do not use fishes in this context.
2. Sometimes should be written as a single word.

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