Plural-Only Nouns in English Grammar

Plural-Only Nouns in English Grammar

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!

Plurale Tantum

What Does 'Plurale Tantum' Mean?

Plurale Tantum/plʊəˈreɪlɪ ˈtæntəm/ (also known as lexical plurals) is a Latin phrase meaning 'plural only'. It refers to those nouns in English which are almost always appear in the plural form and normally does not have a singular form.

What is Considered a 'Plurale Tantum' in English?

In English, a plurale tantum is often a word which designate objects that function as pairs or sets. We can classify these words roughly as follows:

Items of Clothing

Outer garments

  1. pants
  2. trousers
  3. jeans
  4. slacks
  5. dungarees
  6. bell bottoms

Undergarments

  1. shorts
  2. tights
  3. trunks
  4. boxer briefs
  5. panties

Accessories

  1. glasses
  2. eyeglasses
  3. sunglasses
  4. spectacles
  5. goggles
  6. gloves

Tools

  1. scissors
  2. tweezers
  3. shears
  4. snips
  5. Pliers

What If We Use Them As Singular Forms?

In English, the singular form of some plurale tantum nouns are used only as a noun modifier (a noun that functions as an adjective), such as:

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

Beware!

It is considered nonstandard to say 'a pant' or 'a scissor' on their own.

Some pluralia tantum are used in the plural form even as attributive nouns, such as:

  1. clothes peg
  2. glasses case
  3. arms race
  4. jeans maker

Tip

In English, some pluralia tantum have different meanings when used in singular forms. For example, the word 'glasses' is plurale tantum. In contrast, the word 'glass' may be singular or plural.

Singulare Tantum

The opposite of a plural tantum is singulare tantum. It means a noun which appears only in the singular form (especially uncountable nouns) such as information, dust, and wealth.

We can classify singularia tantum in three groups:

  1. mass nouns, such as wood and air;
  2. abstract nouns, such as anger and hatred;
  3. collective nouns, such as fruit and rice.

How to Turn Pluralia Tantum Into Countable Nouns?

Pluralia Tantum can be turned into ordinary countable nouns by using the phrase:

  1. a pair of
  2. pairs of

I tried on two pairs of jeans and none were a fit for me .

''Two'' refers to plural pairs of something.

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

''A'' refers to singular pair of something.

What Pronoun to Use with Plurale Tantum?

It is not correct to use the pronoun 'it' to refer to these nouns. Instead, we should use 'They' even if there is only one pair being referred to.

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

To ease the diagnosis just look at the noun that is always plural.

Keep in Mind!

Learning about these nouns can be difficult for the learner of a second language, since there is no reason or rhyme in how to use them. So you must try to memorize them by heart. For native speakers, their use may seem logical but in a foreign language, they can be confusing.

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