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This question has come straight from this great question title: Pants — why is it plural? I just thought that if somebody hadn't already edited the title, it is either written right, or all editors just liked the play on words.

So how do we say it?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's a matter of the signifier versus the signified. The question being asked is, "why is the word pants plural?" It could as easily have been, "why do we need more than one pant?"

In the first case, since the subject for discussion is a single word, the singular form is correct (if a little odd-sounding at first). In the second, the subject is the article itself, so the option is to pluralize everything or propose a hypothetical singular.

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Pants is always plural. Therefore it's "my pants are ripped" or "I don't like them". It's the same with other plural nouns, like binoculars, glasses, etc.

One says "are your glasses alright", not "is your glasses alright", so it makes sense to assume that they are plural, not singular nouns.

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But my pair of pants is ripped. –  Peter Shor Jun 29 '11 at 0:43
1  
when a collective noun like "pair", "group", "band", etc. is used with a definite article or a possessive pronoun, it can be referred to in the singular. for example, a group of students are studying, but the group is large. –  bcc32 Jun 30 '11 at 23:18
    
@bcc32 I think this is a US/UK thing. As an American, I was taught in school that collective nouns are always singular: "A group of students IS studying." But this came up on another question and apparently in UK usage there's more ambiguity. –  Jay May 16 '12 at 16:38
    
But I think both dialects would say "all of the students are studying." –  bcc32 May 28 '12 at 4:10

protected by RegDwigнt May 16 '12 at 18:03

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