Communication Skills

JS Tip 113: From the Writing Workshops: “Pair” vs. “Pairs.”

Roger Rice of Mountainlands Applied Technology College asked about “pair” versus ”pairs”:

I saw a sign in a window advertising “Two Pairs of Glasses.” Isn't “Pair” already plural?

A pair of shoes represents two shoes. However, a pair of glasses represents a single object with two lenses. A pair of pants has two legs . . . . So what’s correct?

You ready for this? Sit down. Hold on to your chair.

Both.

Both are correct. As plurals.

The American Heritage Dictionary lists the plural of “pair” as either “pair” or “pairs,” and adds this note: “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.

In other words, pairs is more common, but pair is still correct:

      I bought three pairs of glasses. (More common.)

      I bought three pair of glasses. (Less common, but still correct.)

Remember this discussion is about plurals. If you’re talking about only one pair, it’s still pair:

      I bought a pair of glasses.

      She cut the ribbon with a giant pair of scissors.

And “a pair of twins”? Four people, not two.

Next week: “Though” and “although”: What’s the difference?