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Is "Pair" Plural or Singular? Options
MiTziGo
Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009 11:55:56 AM
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I was just wondering whether a pair of something is considered plural or singular in a sentence and why.
For example, would I say:
"Please be careful where you step, a pair of glasses has been lost."
or
"Please be careful where you step, a pair of glasses have been lost."
Thank you.
risadr
Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009 2:12:42 PM
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If it were me, I would go with the former:

"Please be careful where you step, a pair of glasses has been lost."

When you refer to a pair of pants, you refer to it in the singular. Same for a pair of scissors. Why should a pair of glasses be any different?
NicoleR
Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009 3:21:37 PM
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I would agree that "pair" would be considered singular. Even though it represents two things, it is considered one entity. Same goes for phrases like "a family" or "a class"--they are each a singular entity made up of multiple people.
SandraM
Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009 3:42:35 PM
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NicoleR wrote:
I would agree that "pair" would be considered singular. Even though it represents two things, it is considered one entity. Same goes for phrases like "a family" or "a class"--they are each a singular entity made up of multiple people.

Yes, but you could say the same about "police" and the word is treated as plural.
Anyway, I agree about "pair" being singular.
tfrank
Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009 5:21:25 PM
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"Pair" is singular. A good way to remember that is to think about what you would use if you had more than one pair.

I accidentally washed a crayon when I did the laundry. Two pairs of pants now have stains on them, but one pair is just fine.
Tamara
Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009 6:58:03 PM
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My gut reaction was that it was plural but since all of you thought singular, I decided to look it up.
From the The American Heritage® Book of English Usage:
The noun pair can be followed by a singular or plural verb. The singular is always used when pair refers to a set considered as a single entity: This pair of shoes is on sale. A plural verb is used when the members are considered as individuals: The pair are working more harmoniously now. After a number other than one, pair itself can be either singular or plural, but the plural is now more common: She bought six pairs (or pair) of stockings.

So MichalG, your answer is both!
tfrank
Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009 7:38:12 PM
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When the members of a pair are being considered as individuals, "pair" is considered a mass noun. We see it with other words as well, most notably "family" when we mean the members of a family.

The family are all extremely accomplished.

That family is wealthy.

I have to admit, using "family" as a mass noun makes me cringe, but I have no problem with "band" or "team."
Drew
Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 9:51:53 AM
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I'm fairly confident that the word "pair" takes a singular verb.
Lawrence
Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 9:07:24 AM
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There are some things that only exist as 'pairs' and never in the singular. There is no such thing as a trouser or a scissor. Can anyone think of any others?

By the way, is 'lot' singular? 'There was a lot of bricks on the ground?' doesn't sound right to me.
tfrank
Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 5:12:05 PM
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That one changes. The subject includes not only the word lot, but the noun lot refers to, and that noun determines number.

A lot of cars are sitting in traffic.
A lot of lettuce is needed for the salad.
Lots of dances are held on Fridays.
Lots of happiness was felt by all.
krmiller
Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 10:48:39 PM
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"Glasses" is certainly never singular--"glass" means something else entirely, and there's a word ("monocle") for the singular version!

"Lot" can certainly be a singular noun, meaning "a portion," usually used in reference to land. I've also seen it used, probably extrapolated from that, to refer to a portion (perhaps of a shipment) of any kind of goods.
zigzag
Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2009 5:25:22 AM
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tfrank wrote:
"Pair" is singular. A good way to remember that is to think about what you would use if you had more than one pair.

I accidentally washed a crayon when I did the laundry. Two pairs of pants now have stains on them, but one pair is just fine.


This would be a fair answer
tfrank
Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2009 7:47:37 AM
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Hmm, there is also the word lots as always plural, as in "casting lots," but that's another one only vaguely related (if it is at all) to the use of lot(s) in the question. (I'm guessing it might be derived from the idea of one's lot in life, which uses the lot krmiller speaks of?)

This is fun. Maybe we should start a thread about variants and homonyms. I'm at a loss right now, though. Anyone else have an idea for such a thread?
Vonne
Posted: Saturday, March 21, 2009 6:37:56 AM
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Pair is singular.

You wouldn't say some pair of scissors (well I think not).

You would say a pair of scissors. Some pairs...A pair...

Can't get any simpler. Whistle
Galad
Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 4:53:51 PM

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I'm now bothered by a "pair" of pants (never thought about it before).
I can accept "pair of glasses" or "pair of scissors".

Why not a pair of shirts??? (two arms versus two legs!)

VVVVINCENT
Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 8:36:33 PM
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ARE VS IS.
Romany
Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 11:32:53 PM
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As to the question of calling things a pair ...I've often found it funny that knickers are called a pair. "I have on a pair of new knickers" a little girl might say, proudly holding up her dress so one can inspect. But she doesn't have two undergarments on, does she?

Mind you, I expect that it stems back to the very origins of women's undergarments when they were crotchless: just two legs strung on a band worn round the waist. I spose sometimes one got lost in the wash (like socks do today) so they were always paired togather and then, come the eve of the Twentieth century when the crotch was added the two long leg bits were still thought of as "a pair"?
TB
Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 11:33:28 PM
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Why do we say a "pair of pants" when there's only one of them?


From:

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/502/why-do-we-say-a-pair-of-pants-when-theres-only-one-of-them

"....note there is a class of objects that are thought to consist of two independent but connected parts, usually identical or at least similar to each other. In addition to pants and trousers, there are eyeglasses, scissors, tweezers, shears, pliers, and so on.

The terms for these objects are always plural in form, and they are usually referred to as "a pair of ...." This usage goes back to at least 1297 AD, when we have the expression "a peire of hosen."

The implication is that the two parts are separable in some sense, and in fact a pair of hose can often mean two separate pieces. (True, you can't separate tweezers, but I never claimed the English language was rational. ..."

"In contrast to trousers, a shirt is thought of mainly as a covering for the torso, and may or may not have sleeves. Hence no pair".
acrolyth
Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2009 12:51:32 AM
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I think either can be correct.

"A pair (singular)" means the thing made up from two objects but "A pair (plural)" is a number count and makes each of of them separate.

So that

"A pair of birds has bred". It is self perpetuating.

"A pair of birds have flown past" There were two of them
Pk007
Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014 3:49:25 PM
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A pair of architects in Britain, who say that giant arches, bridges, and walls made of artificial bone could be easier to design and build than conventional structures, have already designed a number of structures, including a bridge, to show how their idea would work.

This sentence is correct official sentence published by GMAC in GMATPrep question bank.

A pair of architects have .. blah blah blah -- is correct.

Here in above example we have a pair of separable elements; therefore, we can(not mandatory- as per the requirement and context) use plural verb.
In case if we have "a pair of glasses" or "a pair of pants" in which we can not separate the elements we will have to use singular verb only.

Therefore, it all depends on elements in pair "A pair of xxxxx" and sentence specific requirement in deciding which kind of verb we should use.



Dave Pitt
Posted: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 4:02:04 PM

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I have roughly the same question, but it refers to two units of a kind.

is it 'that pair of bats are broken'
or 'that pair of bats is broken' ?

The second just doesn't sound right when i say it. Microsoft word keeps marking sentences like it as incorrect, and its infuriating. If i'm wrong and I know it, it would be easier to make myself write it out correctly and change my habit.
dave freak
Posted: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 4:04:28 PM
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Dave, do you mean a baseball bat? I would say: These bats are broken.

a pair of = one pair of, so:

That pair of...is broken is correct.
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