Plural-Only Nouns

Here, we will discuss some nouns in the English language that are always used as a plural noun, i.e. they don't have a singular form. Let's get to it!

"Plural-Only Nouns" in English Grammar

What Are 'Plural-Only Nouns'?

Plural-Only Nouns (also called Plurale Tantum/plʊəˈreɪlɪ ˈtæntəm/ or lexical plurals) refer to those nouns in English which almost always appear in the plural form and normally do not have a singular form.

What is Considered a 'Plural-only Noun' in English?

In English, a plural-only noun is a word that refers to objects that function as pairs or sets. We can classify these words as follows:

  • Outer Garments: jeans, trousers, pants, bell bottoms
  • Undergarments: panties, shorts, trunks, tights
  • Eyewear: glasses, sunglasses, binoculars, goggles
  • Tools: pliers, scissors, tweezers, headphones
  • Money: funds, alms, valuables, earnings
  • Problems: blues, condolences, creeps, shenanigans,
  • Outdoors: woods, outskirts, surroundings
  • Diseases: mumps, measles, shingles
  • Food-related items: breadcrumbs, leftovers, dregs
  • Sports: darts, billiards, aerobics, gymnastics
  • Celebrations: congratulations, thanks, nuptials, tidings
  • Miscellaneous: looks, manners, optics, bygones, arms, annals

Warning!

It is considered nonstandard to use 'a pant' or 'a scissor' as singular nouns.

What if We Use Them in Singular Form?

In English, the singular form of some plural-only nouns are used as a noun modifier, for example:

  • trouser pocket
  • scissor kick
  • spectacle case
  • shoe lace

On the other hand, some plural-only nouns are used in the plural form even as attributive nouns, such as:

  • clothes peg
  • glasses case
  • arms race
  • jeans maker

Plural-Only or Countable Nouns

You might encounter some words in English that are used in both plural-only and countable forms. Remember that these words have different meanings depending on whether they are used as plural-only nouns or as countable nouns. For example:

The town was full of smashed brains after the war.

The town was full of smashed brains after the war.

His sister has the brains to establish a laboratory.

In this example, the word 'brains' refers to the intelligence of a person.

There were many glasses of red wine on the table.

Here, the word 'glasses' refers to containers that are filled with red wine.

He used to wear glasses.

In this example, the word 'glasses' refers to an object that somebody wears to enhance their sight.

Singular-only Nouns

The opposite of a plural-only noun is a singular-only noun. It refers to a noun that appears only in the singular form (especially uncountable nouns), such as information, dust, and wealth.

We can classify singular-only nouns in three groups:

  1. mass nouns, such as water and air;
  2. abstract nouns, such as anger and hatred;
  3. collective nouns, such as crowd and family.

How to Turn Plural-only Nouns Into Countable Nouns?

Plural-only nouns can be turned into countable nouns by using the following phrases:

  1. A pair of/Pairs of
  2. A set of/Sets of

Wear a pair of black tights with that dress. It's more classy.

She owns several sets of pajamas, each in a different color.

What Pronouns and Verbs to Use with Plural-only Nouns?

To refer to plural-only nouns, it is not correct to use singular pronouns or singular verbs. Instead, we should use plural pronouns and plural verbs, even if only one pair is being referred to.

I bought a pair of shoes. Look at them! Aren't they gorgeous?

Review

In English, a 'plural-only noun' is often a word that designates objects and functions as pairs or sets.

The opposite of a 'plural-only noun' is a 'singular-only noun'. It refers to a noun that appears only in singular form.

Plural-only Nouns

Here are the most common plural-only noun:

outer garments trousers, jeans
undergarments tights, trunks
accessories eyeglasses, sunglasses
tools tweezers, shears

Singular-only Nouns

Here are the most common singular-only nouns:

mass nouns water, air
abstract nouns anger, hatred
collective nouns fruit, rice

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