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I have read the following sentence in an exercise book written by a non-native speaker:

Wilson has bought two trousers.

I know that it is very common to say "Wilson has bought two pairs of trousers". But is the sentence from the exercise book acceptable to native speakers?

  • Since I cannot answer as a native speaker, I comment thus: I think it's "acceptable", but people may find it odd and think you're not a native speaker. Which may or may not bother you. But I don't think it will have actually negative consequences. Most people are tolerant enough to, well, tolerate it. :D – Jürgen A. Erhard Nov 26 '15 at 18:23
  • This topic comes up (with trousers, scissors, goggles, etc) every few months. There are those that argue that that it's just fine, those who argue that it's non-standard but acceptable, and even a few who argue that it should be the standard. – Hot Licks Nov 26 '15 at 19:09
  • The question was " two pants" or "two PAIR(S) of pants. And I didn't see a direct answer which one is proper... You people talk mostly about adding S to pair or not but you're not answering the question! Please, tell me with or without "pair" is better or proper to say. Thank you! – Laura Feb 2 '17 at 22:40
  • That's a mistake. Yes, it does bother me. I I bought some trousers (BrE) or a pair of trousers, some pants (AmE) or a pair of pants but I bought two pairs of trousers and two pairs of pants. But not: two trousers, no. – Lambie Feb 2 '17 at 22:47
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As a native speaker this sounds a bit unusual to me, as in other constructions with nouns that only exist in the plural e.g. "scissors" or "googles." Perhaps one reason is that we don't like to use the adjective "two" with a noun unless we can use the adjective "one," and saying things like "one scissors" sounds strange because the adjective is singular and the noun is plural.

  • The adjective is singular? In English, adjectives are just adjectives. – Lambie Feb 3 '17 at 13:19
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I bought some pants (AmE). OK [This is said]

I bought some trousers (BrE) OK [This is said]

I bought a pair of pants. [note the a unless you are responding to someone, who says something like: How many was that? Then, we say: I bought one pair of pants or trousers. The same with all things like this: I saw a car I liked. Not: I saw one car I liked, unless you are clarifying] OK

I bought a pair of trousers (Watch that a :). OK

I bought two (or three or four) pairs of trousers or pants.

That's the skinny on this. I bought two trousers is "unacceptable".

Scissors and goggles also follow this exact pattern.

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See https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/9861/three-pair-vs-three-pairs

Saying "has bought two trousers" sounds very odd to my ear. "Did you buy any trousers? Yes, I bought two pair(s)." "Two pair" sounds better to me; "pair" means "two." But I'm old; current usage may favor "pairs."

  • Hmm, I think there's a difference here between "Two pair" as a standalone clipped response, and the full(er) expression "Two pairs of trousers". "Two pair of trousers" does sound odd, doesn't it? But I'm not a native speaker, only a furriner ;-) with a good feel for languages. – Jürgen A. Erhard Nov 26 '15 at 18:21
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"A pant leg" is what I've always heard when describing one leg of a pair of pants. It would seem that an original use for the word "pant" has long been abandoned. Since "trousers" are interchangeable with "pants", I would say that any singular use of "trouser" would not suggest a whole, modern garment.

protected by tchrist Feb 2 '17 at 23:07

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