Saturday, September 22, 2007

S-V Agreement: Pair Nouns

Subject-Verb agreement is tricky when it comes to what is known as the pair noun. A pair noun is a word for something that seems like one item but is actually part of a pair. The most common are scissors, pants, trousers, binoculars. These items can be tricky because the component parts are joined into a whole. So, do they take a plural verb (there are parts) or do they take a singular verb (they're parts joined into one whole).

The answer is pair nouns are plural. We don't say "My pants is old" or "Those scissors is broken." Instead, "My pants are old" and "Those scissors are broken." We can also add a pair of: "Those pairs of socks are going to be given away" (several pairs of socks).

Pair nouns can become singular, though, when you're talking about a part of the pair: "That shoe needs cleaning," "That pajama leg is stained with ink." Remember, though, when you're talking about the entire pair, use the plural.

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