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I never hear "scissor" or "pant" or "jean". It's always "scissors", "pants", and "jeans", respectively. Are they considered plural?

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  • 1
    It is probably a relic from the days when pants and leggings did not cover the butt and pelvis, and so came in pairs, one for each leg. We do have "a scissor kick".
    – TimR
    Dec 3, 2014 at 14:33
  • (Pair of) Underwear, underpants, and panties always gets my boxers in a bunch.
    – SrJoven
    Dec 3, 2014 at 14:52
  • 3
    Scissor lift, pant leg, jean shorts.
    – Jason C
    Dec 3, 2014 at 15:51
  • Well, pant is definitely a word. What's the word to describe half of a scissors? Like if one half broke off
    – Huangism
    Dec 3, 2014 at 18:25
  • 1
    @Huangism Usually it's called a blade.
    – Jason C
    Dec 3, 2014 at 18:39

7 Answers 7

5

Yes, these words only have a plural form and require the verb in the plural. A list of such words would be very long and, to mention just a few:

  • glasses (spectacles)
  • trousers
  • binoculars
  • tweezers
  • pajamas, pyjamas
  • knickers
  • clothes
  • belongings

but beware of "maths" and "aerobics" which are always singular.

For a complete list, follow the links:

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    Your warning about maths and aerobics is incorrect. Maths is a perfectly valid word. It is a regional distinction, like flavor/flavour. And aerobics is just a shortening of "aerobic exercises." Dec 3, 2014 at 15:24
  • 2
    The OP was about "words" not just "nouns", the singulars are often used as adjectives, e.g. "scissor lift", "pant leg", "binocular lens", "I have a tweezer drawer that I keep my tweezers in", etc. Some still don't use the singular in adjective form, though, e.g. you'll never find a "clothe" anything.
    – Jason C
    Dec 3, 2014 at 15:49
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    The singular is often used in verb form as well, e.g. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/scissor, "to scissor something". I am not sure that the assertion that the plural verb is required is correct, either, e.g. thefreedictionary.com/scissor although I cannot think of an example.
    – Jason C
    Dec 3, 2014 at 15:56
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    @Darrick Herwehe I think Centaurus's warning about maths and aerobics is not about the math/maths regional variation, but refers to the fact that these words are always treated as singular in spite of looking like plurals. I (a Brit, if you can't tell) would say "Maths is my favourite subject", but never "Maths are my favourite subject".
    – Nefrubyr
    Dec 3, 2014 at 16:06
  • @JasonC "Clothe" is a perfectly normal and common verb - duckduckgo.com/?q=clothe
    – user99961
    Dec 3, 2014 at 17:44
5

They are termed as duals : denoting a form of a word indicating that exactly two referents are being referred to.

Consider these : trousers, panties, glasses, binoculars, both, couple, legs, arms, feet, youse, pair etc.

The singular form is commonly used in compound words such as: scissor-hands, spectacle-case etc.

Scissor used in the singular as a verb may not be grammatically wrong. 
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    Is "scissor-hands" really commonly used? Before Edward Scissorhands I mean?
    – Xen2050
    Dec 3, 2014 at 15:01
  • @Araucaria, good you brought it up. I referred to the dual markers. Legs, arms, feet and twins are things that occur in pairs and couples.
    – Misti
    Dec 3, 2014 at 16:50
  • @MystiSinha but legs don't only occur in twos! neither do feet! :) Dec 3, 2014 at 18:16
  • 1
    @Araucaria On normal humans they do.
    – Jason C
    Dec 4, 2014 at 6:03
3

Words like "jeans", "scissors", "pants" are non-count nouns. Anything that you cannot buy as a single item (I'd like to buy 1 pant, please) or items that can only be counted in terms of "X's of Y" (pairs of pants/bottles of milk/grains of sand) are non-count.

They don't truly exist as singular or plural. However, we generally use plural verbs with them. "My pants are torn" not "My pants is torn."

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  • I fully agree, but can you add a decent authority that backs this up? (CGEL requires a count-noun [usage] to accept a numeral, for instance.) Feb 16, 2017 at 16:11
  • And note that 'separates' is also always plural-form, never count. But whereas 'I've spilt ketchup on my jeans / pants / tights' almost always refers to a single referent (garment), 'Separates are upstairs, madam' never does. Jun 22, 2021 at 15:48
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Yes, they're plural as Centaurus says. You would say "pass me those binoculars", never "pass me that binoculars"* or "pass me that binocular"*. But as Xen2050 points out, many of those can be used with the classifier "pair" ("A pair of binoculars", "a pair of knickers") in which case the head of the noun phrase is the singular "pair", making the entire noun phrase singular.

Beware of a couple of alternative meanings, though. Centaurus has already flagged "glasses" as only always being plural when it refers to the things you wear in front of your eyes - the type of glass one drinks from behaves "normally" as a known. I avoided using "spectacles" in the clarification, though, because that too has another meaning (noteworthy sights) that can be singular. Similarly, "knicker" is (somewhat archaic) British slang for a pound, and as far as I can tell stays the same in singular and plural.

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  • The "pound" word is spelled nicker.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 4, 2014 at 7:05
  • So it is. But the stone used in some children's games is spelled "knicker", so there is still a word with that spelling.
    – digitig
    Dec 5, 2014 at 13:48
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English has a lot of particularities as to numerus (singular and plural). One group of plural nouns are things that consist of two parts. In English grammars these nouns are often called "pair nouns". Such nouns are

trousers, shorts, pyjamas, braces

scissors, tongs, spectacles, glasses, compasses

lungs

Verbs after these nouns have plural form and when referring to one object you use "a pair of" as in a pair of trousers.

I would not mix these pair nouns with other nouns used in plural form as clothes, belongings etc.

The Oxford Guide to English Grammar has pair nouns in paragraph 155. In other languages these pair nouns in plural form may correspond to a noun in singular as in German Schere (singular) for scissors.

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I think they are plural, sort of, so far as they each have two (nearly identical) pieces (each leg, scissor blade/side) so they're like a set. A pair of pants/jeans, or scissors.

Maybe someone knows the history of the words? Were pants worn one leg at a time, separately, somewhere in the past?

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    Actually, yes, in different time periods. Plate armor came in separate pieces for different sides of the body. And at one time, jacket sleeves basically had to be sewn on every day. We wear "pairs of glasses" because we first had "monocles".
    – miltonaut
    Dec 3, 2014 at 14:45
-2

Yes, the above mentioned words are plural. If you mean 'a pair of scissors' than rules for singular nouns apply.

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