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Plural-Only Nouns

The EnglishClub Guide to Plural Only Nouns

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".

We use them with plural verbs and plural pronouns, for example:

  • 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).

Clothing

  • panties, boxers, briefs, tights
  • jeans, pants, pyjamas, shorts, trousers

Tools

  • headphones
  • pliers, scissors, tongs, tweezers
  • binoculars, glasses, goggles, RayBans, sunglasses

pair of

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

  • earnings
  • 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.

Mini Quiz

Plural-Only Nouns

1. I lost my scissors. Have you seen _______?

it
them
a) it b) them

2. _______ your belongings?

Is that
Are those
a) Is that b) Are those

3. I need a _______ glasses to protect my eyes.

pair of
couple of
a) pair of b) couple of

4. Her clothes _______ you really well.

fit
fits
a) fit b) fits

Your score is:

Correct answers:

Other Plural-Only Noun Resources:

Contributor: Josef Essberger