Singular or Plural?


Have you noticed that some everyday words look like plurals and can be plurals but are also used as singular nouns? Here are a few:

Pants   Those brown pants George is wearing are very baggy.  George is wearing only one pair of pants, but grammatically they appear to be plural: pants are

Trousers  Some people call pants “trousers.”  George is wearing baggy brown trousers today.

Scissors   Where did I put those scissors I was just using to cut this fabric?  Chances are, the writer wasn’t using more than one pair of scissors to cut the fabric.

On my recent trip to Central Europe, I marveled at little children chatting away in Hungarian, Polish, German, Slovakian, and Czech. I couldn’t understand anything. But I’m sure speakers of those languages are amazed that English speakers learn all the idiosyncrasies of that language, even as small children. For the most part, by kindergarten age, they get it right. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? When you think about examples such as those above, you have to wonder how. I’m calling it learning by osmosis.



Filed under All things having to do with the English language

3 responses to “Singular or Plural?

  1. I thought of a couple of other nouns that fit this pattern: slacks and shorts. I wonder why garments for the lower half of our bodies figure so prominently.


  2. Slacks, pants, shorts and trousers are all irregular nouns. They’re singular at the top, but plural at the bottom.
    Likewise, ‘scissors’ are actually the two opposing, knife-like blades. The assembly is singular, but the component parts are plural. 😕


    • <>

      Irregular nouns are words like children, mice, geese, etc. Do you ever wear a slack or a pant? But I do see your point about them changing from one garment at the top to a split garment on the way down. English is nuts.


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