Sunday, August 10, 2008

39. Is It Five PAIR or Five PAIRS of Socks?

Greetings again, all of you grammar lovers and I hope you're all doing well.

Today, I have decided to tackle another one of those very common errors we constantly hear that, I must admit, is going through some transition today. As I've said many times before, our language continues to change and certain expressions we hear many times today may have been considered terrible mistakes fifty years ago, for example. For this reason, Webster's now includes words in our dictionaries that are becoming semi-acceptable, and this is so because they are used so often. However, this doesn't mean that we should include these expressions in our own speech. After all, there are plenty of folks besides English teachers who cringe at the use of some of these bloopers.

One such error that is slowly creeping into the common use file today is the misuse of PAIR and PAIRS. Now we all know that A PAIR of something generally means ONE of a group of items:

ONE PAIR of shoes means exactly what it says.

ONE PAIR of shoes sit under the bed...meaning there are two different shoes under the bed--one for the right foot and one for the left foot...but together they are called ...A PAIR or one group.

However, if you were to say...

FIVE PAIR of shoes sit under the bed...you would be implying that there are ten different shoes under the bed, but you're not saying it correctly. Here, you should say...

FIVE PAIRS of shoes sit under the bed...an S is needed on PAIR to make it plural!

Remember how Webster's defines PAIR: two corresponding things designed for use together as one thing.

All you need to remember is to use the plural (PAIRS) when there are more than one groups of items, things, etc. Pretty easy, huh?

Advertisers in newspapers and on television quite frequently use these two words incorrectly. Watch out for ads that say something such as...


THREE PAIR OF PAJAMAS ON SALE FOR $ 19.99...or...

TWO PAIR OF PANTS FOR $14.95...0r...

FOUR PAIR OF GLOVES TODAY FOR $9.99.


Groan...Where have these writers been all their lives? All three of these sentences are incorrect because each pair refers to more than one group of items! Just place the S on the end of PAIR and you'll be correct.

Well, all right! What a simple rule to learn! Just remember that an S on a noun means it is plural and that's what you mean when you say...

I bought three PAIRS of overalls to wear when I work in the fields...AHHHH...such music to my ears!

Have a great week doing what you enjoy most. Peace and happiness, GG

109 comments:

Anonymous said...

The power of the internet...I googled this exact question and here it is! Thanks for clearing it up for me. And for the record, I was correct when taking about PAIRS of pajamas.

R.A. Cook said...

This helped me too. Like "anonymous," I was right and other people were wrong. It was nice to confirm it so easily.

LostNation said...

Nice to see that there are others out there who (that? Who!) are just as anal as I.

Speaking of being anal, I seem to recall being taught that . . . animate objects "sit" & inanimate objects "set".

That said, those shoes under the bed? They're setting there & not sitting there.

jes sayin'

;)~

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Anonymous said...

Correction: "Nice to see that there are others out there who are just as anal as me [not I]."

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Anonymous said...

As an ESL teacher, this makes perfect logical sense. However, I am curious if there is a grammar rule that allows for no plural use when putting pair at the end of the sentence? (Example: We paid the regular price for two pair.)
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I knew I was right! An advisor I spoke with today tried to tell me I was incorrect.

To one of the previous anonymous posters, 'a lot' is two words. =-]

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Anonymous said...

The Correction: "Nice to see that there are others out there who are just as anal as me [not I]," is incorrect. They are just as anal as I [am], not as me [is].
However, objects sit there, and objects are set there. It doesn't matter if they are animate or inanimate.

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Anonymous said...

Could you consider addressing anyways vs. anyway? Do you add the 's'?

Anonymous said...

If we are writing about shoes under the bed, we should write, 'One pair of shoes sits under the bed.' 'One pair' is singular and requires the singular verb, SITS.

Ruthie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruthie said...

I love this blog. I'm a grammar fanatic, but, every so often need some help! Thank you!!

Ruthie said...
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Daisy said...

according to webster dictionary, the plural of pair is PAIR OR PAIRS. So it's both.

Daisy said...

WEBSTER shows plural of pair is pair or pairs. So both is OK

Anonymous said...

If Webster's defines PAIR as two corresponding things designed for use together as one thing -- as in a right and left shoe (two items) --- each 'set' a 'pair' -- how does a 'pair' of overalls or a 'pair' of pants qualify - one item in my book ---interesting; you can lose 'one' shoe or 'one' glove from each 'pair' but if you lose a 'pair' of pants -- oops --alll gone :-)

3333/afa said...

Correction: "Nice to see that there are others out there who are just as anal as me [not I]."

I'm two years late to the party here, but the original poster was correct in saying "I," and the italicized quote that I've copied and pasted above is incorrect. When you're comparing and use "as" or "than," the majority of the time (there can be exceptions) you use "I," as in "I am." The verb -- in this case, "am" -- can be implied.

As for the actual blog post itself, I'm curious about the origin -- and veracity -- of the oft-used poker phrase, "2 pair." Further elaboration would be helpful.

Anonymous said...

As a collective noun, the pair of shoes sits (not sit) under the bed.

Sorry to be late to this party.

Buddhu and Idiot ka combo said...

is a pair of socks (gloves, shoes etc.) a one item or two items . kindly reply for scissors , pants etc. also

JOYZOZ~JOYCE OSWALD said...

ALL RIGHTY THEN!

JOYZOZ~JOYCE OSWALD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

you are flat-out WRONG. "pair" is an accepted alternate with a long history. a person who says "5 pair of shoes" is not doing it out of ignorance but out of literary influence. read the classics. plural "pair" was once as common as plural "sheep" or "fish".

Unknown said...

Just a minor correction. One should say "One pair of shoes sits under the bed." This is because the word pair is singular. "Two pairs of shoes sit under the bed, but one pair is (not are) missing."

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Anonymous said...

Just another wrench... in cards it is 'two pair' rather than 'two pairs'...

Alex said...

Just a minor correction. One should say "One pair of shoes sits under the bed." This is because the word pair is singular. "Two pairs of shoes sit under the bed, but one pair is (not are) missing."

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Anonymous said...
you are flat-out WRONG. "pair" is an accepted alternate with a long history. a person who says "5 pair of shoes" is not doing it out of ignorance but out of literary influence. read the classics. plural "pair" was once as common as plural "sheep" or "fish".

I second Anonymous above.
Where is the writer getting his or her information? You are misinforming the good people who read you blog. Although "pair" has fallen out of usage (use?) in the last generation or so, and "pairs" has become more standard, they are both correct.

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Anonymous said...

> Correction: "Nice to see that there are others out there who are just as anal as me [not I]."

Correct the correction:
"I" is correct. The whole phrase would be "as I (am)". The word "am" is implied.

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Jeff Lonowski said...

You say "ONE PAIR of shoes sit under the bed." You make a big point of saying this is a singular subject but your verb "sit" does not agree. I am confused.

Jeff Lonowski said...

You say "ONE PAIR of shoes sit under the bed." You make a big point of saying this is a singular subject but your verb "sit" does not agree. I am confused.

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Richard Manley said...

If one is referring to hunting dogs, the plural of pair is pair. One has 12 pair of hounds, not 12 pairs.

Richard Manley said...

If one is referring to hunting dogs, the plural of pair is pair. One has 12 pair of hounds, not 12 pairs.

Anonymous said...

No one who says "one groups" should not attempt to teach anyone English grammar. It is two pairs though.

Heather Colbert said...

and the correct tense of the verb is "one pair of shoes SITS under the bed"... remember PAIR, though meaning two, is a singular noun

Anonymous said...

YES, so if there is a deer in my back yard, and a second one shows up. There are now two deers! Since Webster defines one as "Deer". Now I am clear too!

Anonymous said...

Lol, I need to correct u man!!
It is the word "five pair" which is correct rather than "five pairs". Check for the same in HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH GRAMMAR by WREN and MARTIN.

Cindy Downs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindy Downs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindy Downs said...

I love the people that willingly accept that an anonymous blogger on the net is correct, simply because it agrees with their own personal opinion. ;-)

Every dictionary you look it up in, both online or in print, says both are correct:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pair

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pair

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pair

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pair

And only one I found, the Oxford Learner's Dictionary, considers it correct in informal North American English, but incorrect in written English...(for obvious reasons.

http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/pair_1

But look up what they say the "correct" way to pronounce aluminum is:

http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/aluminium#aluminium__11

...and see if you think they are an authority anywhere in the world outside the UK!) ;-)