Lifes or Lives: What’s the Difference?

In English, you form the plural of most nouns simply by adding an “s” onto the end of the word. For example,

  • Apple
  • Apples

And from there, your verb should change in your sentence from singular to plural to match the subject. For example,

  • The car drove past my house.
  • Cars drive past my house.

In the case of the noun live, however, its plural form changes a bit more than your typical English noun.

What is the Difference Between Lifes and Lives?

In this post, I want to compare lifes vs. lives. Which is correct to use and when? I will use example sentences throughout the demonstrate how to use each word, and I will give you a few tips to remember the differences between the two at the end.

After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever again wonder, “Should I use lifes or lives?”

When to Use Lifes

What does lifes mean? Lifes is an incorrect formulation of the plural lives.

lives versus lifes meaningAs I mentioned above, you form the plural of life a little differently than other English nouns, so instead of simply adding an “s” to the end of life, you replace the “f” with a “v” and then add an “s” to the word. For example,

  • The children were not sure what to do with their lives.

-not-

  • The children were not sure what to do with their lifes.

This confusion isn’t entirely unfounded, however. Students and other English language learners might get confused seeing the singular possessive life’s.

The singular possessive shows ownership. For example,

  • My life’s goal is to start my own business.

This is my life, and my life’s goal is to start a business.

Also, in some casual conversation, people might use life’s as a contraction.

  • My life’s been pretty good thus far.
  • My life has been pretty good thus far.

This latter use of life’s won’t be used in any kind of written work, but it’s not uncommon to hear it spoken.

Main point: The takeaway point is that lifes is not the correct formulation of the plural form of live.

When to Use Lives

our lives or our lifeLives as a noun: Lives (pronounced lie-vz) is the correct plural form of the noun life, which is defined as a living being, especially a person.

  • This study examines the lives of the rich and famous.
  • The natural disaster claimed the lives of 300 people.
  • That change affected the daily lives of the city’s rich professionals, but also of their pinched support staffs. –The New York Times

Lives as a verb: Lives (pronounced livz) is also the third person singular of the verb to live, defined as to be alive; exist. For example,

  • Greg lives in uptown Manhattan.
  • For $400, Berkowitz lives in his pod and has full access to the amenities. Constructing the pod cost $1,300. –The Washington Post

Our Life or Our Lives?

Given that lives is plural, how should it be written when it appears with the plural our? Well, that depends on the context of your sentence.

If the two lives being talked about are to be taken individually, then you will want to use the plural lives. For example,

  • Our lives went in separate directions.
  • In all of our lives, we run into obstacles and challenges.

If, however, the two lives are meant to be taken as one, such as married couple who share their lives together, it is possible to say our life.

  • Throughout our married life, we have faced problems.
  • Our family life is great.

Remember the Difference

Here’s an easy trick to remember lives vs. lifes. When you are second-guessing yourself on which word to pick, just think of another word that functions similarly: knife.

  • Knife is singular. Life is singular.
  • Knives is plural. Lives is plural.

If you can remember this, you will be all set.

Summary: Lives vs. Lifes

Is it lives or lifes? Here is a concise summation of the difference.

The correct choice is lives if you are looking for the plural of life.

Lifes should never appear without an apostrophe in it.

  • His life’s goal is to become a basketball player. (Possessive)
  • My life’s a mess. (Contraction)