There is a small group of nouns that exist only in the plural form, for example:
- clothes, pants, scissors, shorts, thanks, trousers
These nouns do not exist in the singular form and are usually described as "plural-only nouns".
- My trousers are dirty. I need to wash them.
We cannot use them with numbers.
Plural-Only Nouns with Two Parts
Many plural-only nouns are tools or items of clothing that have two parts (like trousers, which have two legs).
- panties, boxers, briefs, tights
- jeans, pants, pyjamas, shorts, trousers
- pliers, scissors, tongs, tweezers
- binoculars, glasses, goggles, RayBans, sunglasses
Because the above examples have two parts, we can refer to them as "pair of" or "pairs of" to quantify them.
To talk about one item we can say a pair of, one pair of, my pair of, this pair of etc. To specify more than one item we can say two pairs of, three pairs of etc.
- I need a new pair of sunglasses.
- You can get rid of that old pair of headphones.
- I'd like to buy one pair of boxers and two pairs of jeans.
Some nouns may be plural-only with one meaning and singular/plural with other meanings. For example, the plural-only noun glasses means a pair of lenses that we wear to help us see better. Do not confuse with the words:
glass, glasses (countable noun): a container for drinking from. I'd like two glasses of orange juice please.
glass (uncountable noun): transparent material used for windows, screens etc. Be careful not to break the glass.
Other Plural-Only Nouns
- belongings, clothes
- congratulations, thanks
- outskirts, premises, surroundings
In these example sentences notice the use of plural verbs and plural pronouns:
- Make sure your belongings are tagged with your name before you check them in.
- Her thanks were clearly sincere.
- If your clothes are wet you can dry them upstairs.
- The outskirts of Washington are really pretty and they stretch for miles.
Contributor: Josef Essberger