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​10 Pair Of Words That Prove English Grammar Is Crazy

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​Summary: Pair Of Words

​Pair of words in English are a mess! A pair means two items right? So why do the English say a Pair of trousers and mean only one clothing item?

Today we take a look at when to use pair for more than one item and when to use pair for single items. This probably wouldnt be a big issue if pair of words were not used that often. Unfortunately the English use them pretty much every day in normal conversations. So you just have to learn them and remember when pair means two items and when it means one item.

Today’s short podcast lesson (long Monday one is here)will talk about some of the most common “pair of” words and put them in sentences spoken by a native English speaker.

​Audio Transcript: 10 Pair Of Words That Prove English Grammar Is Crazy

​Hi there and welcome to this Thursday podcast from Adept English. If you are interested in becoming fluent in spoken English, then this podcast, which is one of many, will help you improve your fluency. And we give you English grammar tips along the way as well. If you’re interested in learning more quickly and getting to grips with English conversation, then there are courses on our website which are there to help you – that’s at

​You can start with our 500 words course – it’s really good – it’s a whole course made up of just the 500 most common English words. Learn those words and you’ll have enough vocabulary to speak in most situations! But today, in this podcast let’s go with some English grammar practice.

​About : List of pair of words

​Now, the word ‘pair’ in English, P-A-I-R is used when there are two of something that ‘go together’. Things that come ‘as a pair’ would be socks or shoes, or boots perhaps for your feet. So you’d say ‘A pair of socks’ or ‘a pair of boots’. Or gloves for your hands – gloves, G-L-O-V-E-S are what you put on your hands when the weather is cold. So you would say ‘a pair of gloves’, or ‘a pair of mittens’, if they have no fingers for example. Notice here that if you want to talk about more than one pair, you’d say ‘two pairs of gloves’ or ‘three pairs of socks’. OK, so far, so good as we say. A pair is when there are two of something.

A photograph of a pair of blue jeans with two pockets laid out flat. Used as an article image for the article “10 Pair Of Words That Prove English Grammar Is Crazy Article Image”

​So there are lots of pairs to do with the human body, things that we have two of. A pair of hands, a pair of eyes, a pair of ears. Lots of internal organs too – a pair of lungs, a pair of kidneys, a pair of knees etc. Knees, K-N-E-E-S are the bones in your legs at the join in the middle of your leg. It’s just the way we’re designed as human beings! You can also use the word pair to mean a pair of people or a pair of dogs or a pair of houses. You might say of two brothers or of a married couple ‘Mm, they look a funny pair’ or ‘Oh, they’re a difficult pair’.

​The problem: Pairs of confusing English words

So again, all of this is logical. So what’s the more difficult part of pair? Why am I doing a podcast on this specifically? Well, the thing to be aware of is that sometimes we use the word pair and grammatically treat this as a plural, when in fact we are talking about just one item. Think about the following words:-

A pair of scissors or a pair of tongs – the kind you might use to pick up your sausages off your barbecue?
A pair of trousers
A pair of sunglasses
A pair of jeans
Or a pair of knickers even

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​What are the grammatical rules for this?

So all of these things are singular items but we treat them as plurals.

Where it’s something like glasses or sunglasses, I guess this is a bit more understandable. Clearly there are two pieces of glass in there, so you can see how it might have become a plural in the development of the English language. But it’s not entirely logical. Clothing for the legs – so trousers, pants, jeans, tights – I guess because they have two legs in them are always plural.

This isn’t how it works in other languages – in French for example, it would be ‘un pantalon’ for trouses, so singular, and yet you would say ‘des culottes’ – that’s plural. You could argue perhaps, OK there are two legs in a pair of jeans, but there are also two sleeves for your arms in a jumper or a jacket, but we don’t make that plural. We say ‘a jumper’ or ‘the jacket’ – so that’s singular.

​Grammar rules for the word ‘pair’ : Examples of pair of words in sentences

​And back to the word pair – if you were talking about ‘a pair of friends’ or ‘a pair of work colleagues’ or ‘a pair of doves’ – you would say ‘They’. For example ‘A pair of friends were walking along the street’ or ‘a pair of doves were sitting in the tree’. So that’s even though the subject of the sentence ‘pair’ is a singular.

If it was the kind of pair – like jeans or trousers or scissors – that are actually one item, you can kind of use either. ‘There is a pair of jeans in the wash’, or ’there are a pair of jeans in the wash’ ‘there are a pair of scissors on the table’ or ‘there is a pair of scissors on the table’. Both of these are acceptable. It’s your choice!


Anyway, I hope that’s answered some tricky grammar questions and given you a bit of English grammar practice, when you’re thinking about single and plural uses of the word pair!

Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

​PS: A Single Pair Of Sunglasses Sums Up The Madness Of English Grammar

​​​​To be fluent in English, you need to learn English grammar rules (most of use expect this for any language!) However, for English it is just as important to learn the grammar exceptions that break the rule.

Unfortunately, English grammar is not consistent and often breaks its own rules (probably to catch out English language students!).

Listening to the audio lessons Adept English provide will help you understand when the grammar rules are being ignored or even broken. Listening many times to the audio will help you automatically hear when this is happening.

​We have lots of other tips on learning to speak English .

If you like this English podcast and want to know when the next podcast is published you can subscribe for an .


Hilary is an Adept English Editor and a founding member of the company.

This content was originally published here.

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