buses or busses - plural for public transport

Discussion in 'English Only' started by suzannah_m, Apr 18, 2006.

  1. suzannah_m New Member

    Frankfurt, Germany
    English, England
    Can anyone tell me which one is the best one to use! I have seen on various web sites that both can be used, but books and older material still refer to buses as being correct (busses being the plural of buss, an informal word for kiss (originating from german??)

    anyhow, any ideas? busses or buses?
    I "feel" like 2 ss are ok, but is there a consensus?
  2. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    My own preference is definitely for buses. The version with two Ss looks wrong to me and I wouldn't use it, but, to my surprise, the Concise OED says it's an American alternative.
  3. Little_Me Senior Member

    Poland, Polish
    "Buses" are definitely ok. I've never seen in written English form "busses", but I'm sure that once, one of my teachers told me about such form...and as far as I remember, it was about American English indeed...
  4. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Although buses is the form normally used for the plural noun in BE the reverse seems to be true for the verb.
    Four British learners' dictionaries use "bussed" in their examples and one (Cambridge) states that -s- is more usual for inflected forms of the verb in AE.
  5. DaleC Senior Member

    In America, 'busses' is definitely not common, if it ever was. In fact, I never see 'busses'. I've lived in three of the four extremes of the 48 states: Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Diego, each for many years.

    As to your second topic: 'kiss' is Anglo-Saxon, and 'buss' is from French.
  6. adremd Senior Member

    Interesting tidbit from wikipedia...

    'The usual plural of bus is "buses". "Busses" is sometimes used, but is also the plural of "buss", a dialectal word for "kiss" or a type of boat'.


    I learn something new everyday.
  7. suzannah_m New Member

    Frankfurt, Germany
    English, England
    ok, so i think the safe bet is to stick to buses ;-) thanks all for your input!
  8. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Yes - on the UK side I have never seen "busses" before either for the plural. I would, however, write "bussed". I think that "busses" as the present tense of the verb would be ok though.
  9. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    I would be inclined to ignore the double-s form. After all, opus, onus, rebus, pus and surplus do not double the s.
  10. HSS

    HSS Senior Member

    Sendai, Japan
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    My feel about the plural form of the word bus 'busses' is it's only used in North America, and rarely at that. Am I correct? I came across the usage in a book written by my favorite author thirty five years ago, and that was the only time I've ever seen it. (I can't seem to go back to where I saw it. I tried to dig it up out of the three hundred page book unsuccessfully)


    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  11. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    I have never seen busses in the UK (only as a verb = to buss children to another school).
  12. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    From the Capital Community College website:

  13. mplsray Senior Member

    The Capital Community College Web site is incorrect in its assessment of buses as being listed in dictionaries as "the preferable plural form." The dictionaries are listing buses first not because their editors believe that it is preferable to busses but because it is the more usual plural of the two standard plurals given. What is preferable and what is common are two different things entirely, and, in my experience, all modern general dictionaries list standard variants without indicating in any fashion that one is preferable over another.

    Dictionaries may, of course, indicate dialectal differences, including differences between standard dialects, as the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary does when it gives the plural of bus as "plural buses or US ALSO busses."
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  14. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    Why would you not pluralise bus???

    1 bus, 2 buses/busses

    Standard pluralisation rules apply.
  15. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    The rules of English spelling don't double consonants in nouns (except z: quizzes, fezzes), but they do in verbs, so the verb should go busses, bussed, bussing. On Google these are roughly as common as the single-s versions. It does seem rather confusing to say that Alabama busses children to school in yellow buses. Most people would probably use the same spelling for both noun and verb.
  16. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I think it comes from the fact that there are so few nouns ending with a single s that it's difficult to find enough other examples to establish a rule. However, as entangledbank says, we don't normally double consonants in nouns (I hadn't considered the z).
  17. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    << Moderator's note:
    The more recent thread was merged with an older thread. >>
  18. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    The only other such three-letter word I could find is "yes". Of the dictionaries I checked, American Heritage says "yeses", Macmillian says "yesses", Compact OED says "yeses or yesses", and Merriam-Webster is oddly silent (it usually gives a plural form but doesn't for "yes").
    Personally, I prefer the "ss" form as buses abuses my elementary school phonics lessons and I don't know what to make of yeses at all.
  19. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I'd happily* talk about gassing rodents with noxious gases ... but yes, bussing people in buses does look a smidgeon weird.

    *Not happily happily, of course.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  20. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    I can't believe I missed "gas"! American Heritage says "gases or gasses", Macmillian says "gasses", Compact OED says "gases or gasses", and Merriam-Webster says "gases also gasses." More for "-sses" than on "yes" - perhaps because "gase" looks more like it might be a real word than "yese". ;)
  21. CapnPrep Senior Member

    English spelling rules do not apply to nouns and verbs differently!

    We do double final consonants in nouns before a suffix, but of course the suffix has to begin with a vowel (grit + y gritty, gas + y gassy, pus + y → uhh… never mind :p ). The plural suffix is usually just ‹-s›, so no consonants get doubled before that. But we add ‹-es› after ‹sh›, ‹ch›, ‹x›, ‹z›, and ‹s›. Of these, the first three can't be doubled, according to the rules of English spelling. ‹z› gets doubled, as you pointed out, but this is not an exception: it's the regular rule. So I don't see why ‹s› shouldn't be doubled, too.
  22. HSS

    HSS Senior Member

    Sendai, Japan
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Initially I just wanted to know how topically or widely 'busses' is used. The query just seems to have evolved into that looking into how it's been derived. Thanks for your answers and comments regarding that, too. (Bear in mind my thread has been merged into Suzannah's)

    Could I more or less conclude a plural of bus 'busses' is only used in North America, and by a very limited number of people? (As I said that particular use was my only encounter as far as I remember)
  23. sinopoli Member

    La France
    English South African

    Thank you bartonig, very useful for my Fremch students

  24. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Here are some indicative numbers:
    COCA (American) BNC (British)
    buses 5370 (97.8%) 1426 (99.3%)
    busses 119 (2.2%) 10 (0.7%)

    You may also be interested in seeing how buses became the dominant form during the course of the 20th century: Google Ngrams.
  25. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Just a PS to CapnPrep's statistics: 7 of the 10 BNC examples of 'busses' relate to the name of a farm in Sussex, Busses Farm:).

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