My wife always gives me a hard time when I say scissors; she insists the only correct way to refer to that cutting device is "pair of scissors". Is "pair of scissors" more correct than "scissors"?
Both scissors and pair of scissors are correct; one is not more correct than the other. The context will usually determine where pair can be left out, and indeed, most simply leave it out where possible. Consider the following examples:
- Darling, where are the scissors?
- I can't find the scissors!
- Who took the scissors?
In the above examples, one would rarely find pair used in those contexts. It is also colloquial to use some to refer to just one pair:
- You need some scissors to do a perfect job.
- I want some new scissors.
The above forms should not be used in formal situations. Thus:
- You need a pair of scissors to do a perfect job.
- I want a new pair of scissors.
In some situations, pair comes in handy:
I lost the scissors. We need to get a new pair.
Can't find your scissors? Want a new pair?
If one does not want to use pair, then one can also use ones:
I lost the scissors. We need to get new ones.
Can't find your scissors? Want new ones?
Similar "pair" words follow the same pattern. These are some common examples, not an exhaustive list:
- calipers/callipers (Mostly caliper these days!)
- clippers (Also clipper)
- compasses (Although, increasingly, this is now simply called compass!!)
Clothing worn below the waist:
- long johns
- pants/trousers (including all varieties, such as khakis, and the like)
Singular items (mostly worn) that usually come in pairs:
- shoes (and all footwear types)
One word that I do not think "pair" is ever used with, even though they come in pairs: