Lifes or Lives – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 31, 2017/ Uncategorized

lifes versus lives

What’s the Difference Between Lifes and Lives?

Lifes and lives seem like they could be two alternate spellings of the same word. However, lifes is actually not a word at all. It is just a common misspelling of the word lives.

Lifes is a common incorrect way to spell lives. Those who use it intended to use the plural of life and forgot to change the f to a v when adding an s.

  • Some people believe that cats have nine lifes. (incorrect spelling – use lives instead)

Lives can act as either a noun or a verb. It relates to existing, and not being dead.

  • The firefighters couldn’t risk their lives to go back into the burning house to rescue the pets. (noun form)
  • She lives in Germany. (verb form)

Let’s look at some of the ways to use, and not use, these words in English.

Using Lifes in a Sentence

When to use lifes: Never use the word lifes. If you want to use the plural form of life, you must change the f into a v.

This is a spelling rule that you can see in other singular/plural word pairs such as wolf/wolves, calf/calves, hoof/hooves, knife/knives, leaf/lives, and others.

Life is a noun that refers to the animate existence of animals and plants.

For example,

  • Dozens of lifes were lost in the school shooting. (incorrect spelling – use lives instead)
  • Some people believe each person has only one life to live. I disagree. I believe we all have many lifes to live. (incorrect spelling – use lives instead)

Most singular words change into plural words simply by adding s. Life and the other words ending in f and fe can be tricky to remember because they are an exception to this rule. Adding s is not enough for this word. Therefore, the word lifes is never correct and you must always avoid using it.

Using Lives in a Sentence

When to use lives: Lives can be either the plural noun form of life or the third-person singular conjugation of the verb live. In both cases it refers to animate existence.

For example:

  • Teenagers always drive so recklessly! It’s like they don’t even value their lives! (plural noun form)
  • She always is sky diving and doing other wild stuff. She lives an exciting life. (verb form)

There are also some common expressions and idioms with lives or live:

  • to live on the edge: to lead a perilous lifestyle
    • He hiked Mount Everest all by himself. He really lives on the edge.
  • to live a lie: to live while hiding a big secret about one’s true self
    • He’s gay but can’t tell anyone because it is illegal in his country. He lives a lie every day.
  • to live off the land: to get one’s needs from the land directly rather than through buying them
    • She grows all of her own food and even makes her own clothes from her livestock. She lives off the land and hardly ever buys anything.

There are many more expressions that use live or life without an s. However, the expressions above are among the more common ones that use the plural noun or third-person singular conjugation.

Remembering Lifes vs. Lives

It is hard for people to remember to change the f to a v when making life plural. This is because not all words ending in f or fe change to v when plural. A couple examples of words that don’t change are giraffe/giraffes and chief/chiefs.

There is one mnemonic device that can help you to remember that life is one of the words that does change its final consonant when it becomes plural. Look at the f in life. It looks almost like a crude stick figure of a single person.

This can help you remember that a single life is spelled with an f. Likewise, look at the v in lives. The two lines in the v look like an even cruder drawing of two people. This can help you remember that two people means two lives, and therefore you should spell live with a v.

Outside Examples

  • “I think it’s important for law enforcement to understand these kids and what their lives are like, and for kids to see law enforcement as people who are on their side to keep them safe. Our goal is that we can build that bridge,” she said. –Chicago Sun Times
  • “Since the hours after Deborah Danner’s killing Ed Mullins has been proclaiming Sgt. Hugh Barry’s innocence,” Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, said in a statement. “He has insulted the mayor and publicly degraded the police commissioner.” –New York Daily News
  • A Utah mother of three — killed, allegedly by her husband, aboard a cruise ship off Alaska — was “the light of our lives,” her grieving family said. –New York Post
  • Returning to the Senate after surgery and a brain cancer diagnosis, he delivered a stirring speech on Tuesday calling on lawmakers from both parties to reach “agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.” –New York Times

Quiz: Lives vs. Lifes

Select the correct word to fill in the blanks, either lives or lifes.

  1. She _________________ off campus.
  2. People think fish can’t feel pain, but they actually can. I think their ______________ are equally important to other animals’ ______________. (correct spelling)
  3. I don’t care about the _______ of other people. My life is the only one that is important! (incorrect spelling)

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use lifes or lives? Only use lives. There is no situation in which lifes is the correct usage.

  • Lifes is a common error for someone trying to spell the plural of life.
  • Lives is the correct spelling of the plural word for life. It also is the third-person singular conjugation for the verb to live.

Using the context above can help ensure you always remember to change f to v when forming the plural of life.


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