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Clothing Vocabulary: "A Pair Of…"

Finally! A man who knows how to wear a pair of pants with style! (Image)

Good afternoon, and welcome to Word Wednesday! On Monday we looked at a common word we say when we talk about clothing: “wear.” Today I wanted to talk about a vocabulary point that is different in English and other languages:

Common Vocabulary Error: “a pair of…”
DON’T say this: Today I am wearing a jeans and boots, and she is wearing a short and tennis.
I need to wash my clothes; I don’t have a single clean underwear.
She always wore a glasses.
WHY? All of the following words are considered plural in English, and can be “counted” with the phrase “a pair of…“:

a pair of glasses / sunglasses / reading glasses / etc.
a pair of ski goggles / swimming goggles / etc.
a pair of ear muffs
a pair of headphones / earphones
a pair of underwear / boxer shorts / briefs / panties / etc.
a pair of jeans / pants / trousers / slacks / dress pants / etc.
a pair of shorts / swimming trunks / board shorts / hot pants / etc.
a pair of leggings / tights / pantyhose / etc.

In some languages (like Spanish and German) many of these can be singular. For example, in Spanish you can say “un pantalón,” and in German “eine Hose“; in English, both of these are “a pair of pants” (or “a pair of trousers” in British English).

But why do we say “a pair” if it’s only one piece of clothing? That’s a good question. Notice that most of these words are for clothing related to your legs, ears, or eyes. I normally tell my students to count the number of legs, ears, or eyes to remember that certain pieces of clothing are always plural in English.

If that’s too complicated, remember that in many cases, we can even eliminate the phrase “a pair of,” as long as we say the clothing in plural:
She’s wearing shorts and tennis shoes.”
He wears goggles and swimming trunks when he goes to the pool.”

Obviously, if you’re talking about clothing that has two parts (like shoes, gloves, boots, etc.), then those are also going to be considered plural.

INSTEAD, SAY THIS: -“Today I am wearing a pair of jeans and a pair of boots, and she is wearing a pair of shorts and a pair of tennis shoes.”
-“Today I am wearing jeans and boots, and she is wearing shorts and tennis shoes.”
-“I need to wash my clothes; I don’t have a single clean pair of underwear.”
-“She always wore a pair of glasses.”
-“She always wore glasses.”

Hopefully that makes sense. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.

If you’re reading this in Costa Rica, hopefully you can enjoy the beautiful day– go for a nice walk, but be sure to wear a pair of shorts and a pair of sunglasses!

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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Confusing Capitals
Common Error: "use" vs. "wear"

One Comment

  1. Hooprohill69g
    On February 12, 2017 at 8:47 pm Reply

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