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Nouns that have only the plural form

Some nouns have no singular form. Such a noun is called a plurale tantum. Examples
include cattle, thanks, clothes (originally a plural of cloth).

A particular set of nouns, describing things having two parts, comprises the major group
of pluralia tantum in modern English:

glasses (a pair of spectacles), pants, panties, pantyhose, pliers, scissors, shorts,


suspenders, tongs (metalworking & cooking), trousers, etc.
These words are interchangeable with a pair of scissors, a pair of trousers, and so forth.

In the American fashion industry it is common to refer to a single pair of pants as a pant
—though this is a back-formation, the English word (deriving from the French pantalon)
was originally singular. In the same field, one half of a pair of scissors separated from the
other half is, rather illogically, referred to as a half-scissor. Tweezers used to be part of
this group, but tweezer has come into common usage only since the second half of the
twentieth century.

These nouns cannot be used with numbers.


They include the names of certain tools, instruments and articles of clothing which have
two parts.

Tools and instruments


binoculars
headphones
sunglasses
glasses
scissors
tweezers

Clothing
jeans
pyjamas
tights
knickers
shorts
trousers
pants
I’ve got new sunglasses. Do you like them?
He always wears shorts, even in the winter.

A pair of

We can use pair of to refer to one example of these nouns:

I bought a new pair of binoculars last week.


That old pair of trousers will be useful for doing jobs in the garden.

We use pairs of to refer to more than one example of this type of noun:

They’re advertising two pairs of glasses for the price of one.


I bought three pairs of shorts for the summer.

Other nouns which are always plural in form:

belongings
outskirts
clothes
premises (buildings)
congratulations
savings (money)
earnings
stairs
goods
surroundings
likes/dislikes
thanks

Please ensure that you take all your belongings with you as you leave the aircraft.
They live on the outskirts of Frankfurt, almost in the countryside.
My clothes are wet. I’ll have to go upstairs and change.
She spent all her savings on a trip to South America.

In English, there are several nouns that exist only in the plural form. Except for a few,
they all end in –s.
Examples are:

Amends (to make ‘amends’ for causing some loss)


Annals (pages of books of history)
Archives
Arms (weapons)
Arrears
Ashes (of a dead cremated body)
Auspices (patronage)
Bowels
Brains (intellect)
Contents
Customs (duty)
Earnings
Entrails
Fireworks
Funds (money)
Goods
Guts (bowels, courage)
Letters (in the expression ‘a man of letters’)
Looks (e.g. She has got attractive looks)
Manners (in the expression ‘good manners’)
Odds (in the expression ‘heavy odds’)
Outskirts
Pains (e.g. to take pains)
Premises (building)
Riches (wealth)
Stairs (e.g. a flight of stairs)
Surroundings (environment)
Thanks
Troops
Tropics
Valuables
Wages
Proceeds
Tidings
Nuptials
Alms
Drawers
***Collective nouns (group words)***

Some nouns refer to groups of people (e.g. audience, committee, government, team).
These are sometimes called collective nouns. Some collective nouns can take a singular
or plural verb, depending on whether they are considered as a single unit or as a
collection of individuals:

audience
crew
public
committee
enemy
team
company
government
Manchester United

The audience was larger than average and the concert was a success.
The audience were all cheering wildly.

The government is hoping that online voting will attract more young people to vote.
The government are all very nervous about the report, which will be published tomorrow.

Manchester United is the world’s most famous football club.


Manchester United are looking forward to meeting Valencia in the final next week.

In general, a plural verb is more common with these nouns in informal situations.